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It is a taboo topic, but in the wake of the tragedy in Colorado, I would like to share my experience with mental health.

I had never experienced an anxiety attack or depression prior to losing Ansley.  But as I tried to re-engage in life, I was often overcome with a feeling that is hard to describe.  It was paralyzing.  It was a new feeling and I didn’t know what to do with it.   It was anxiety attacks.

At one of my many doctors appointments, I had one of my anxiety attacks, but it quickly changed over to uncontrollable sobs.  My doctor asked that I seek counseling.  She was unsure if I was suffering from postpartum depression or grief and she didn’t feel qualified to make that call.  She explained, in a patient that had a normal birth experience, she would be sure it was postpartum, but with me it wasn’t that easy to determine.  

I began looking for a therapist to talk to that would be covered by my insurance.  To my surprise my insurance doesn’t cover mental health.  They simply offer a 1-800 number; a glorified suicide hotline.   And, I soon learned this is a normal practice.  Companies are not mandated to offer mental health, so many don’t.  I find this troubling; Dermatology is covered (treatment of the skin) but treatment of the brain is not? It seems like all the other organs in the body fall into basic medical coverage, but not the brain.  Brain illness is something different, something less legit or seemingly less important, at least according to our insurance policies.

Finding a therapist isn’t an easy task either.  It is much like dating.  You aren’t going to marry the first person you go out on a date with.  It took meeting with 3 therapists before finding one that I felt comfortable even talking to.  And, therapists aren’t cheap.  Each meeting cost between $75-200.  The one that I decided to see on weekly basis cost $125.  I saw her weekly, for about 5 weeks, before transitioning to every other week for the next couple of months.  All in all, I spent about $1500 in a few months on mental health care.  They were by far the most expensive conversations I had ever had, but they were helpful in getting me moving forward and getting back to my life.

Bottom line, mental illness is treatable.  There are medications readily available.  So why do we make it so difficult? While many people argue about gun control laws after a senseless shooting like the one in Colorado last week, I argue that we need to take a long hard look at our mental health care system.  For someone to open fire in movie theater, a school, a summer camp or a shopping mall, they must have some mental health issues that need to be addressed.  I also don’t think their mental health issues can be resolved with an 800 number and many state hospitals and institutions have been closed due to financial reasons.  The options for mental health are few and far between especially for those that have limited financial resources.  I do realize that someone would have to seek help to even benefit from mental health care, but maybe, just maybe, if it wasn’t so expensive and was readily available {read: part of mainstream health care and insurance} a future tragedy could be prevented.

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