When our daughter told us that she wanted (and needed) to speak to a therapist, my initial reaction was one of shock. I had no idea that she was struggling with anything, let alone something serious enough to need to speak to a professional about it. I panicked. Mostly because I wasn’t prepared.
I was incredibly grateful that she was brave enough to come to us about it. I knew that it was going to be a tough journey, but we would stop at nothing to get her the help she needed.
I didn’t move as quickly as I probably should have. It’s not that I didn’t believe her, or I didn’t think it was a real problem. I was terrified. Maybe my own experiences with mental health issues clouded my judgment at the time. Or maybe my anxieties had me frozen in fear. I’m not sure. But before we talk more about this, I want to acknowledge that I allowed those fears to stall, secretly hoping that if I wished it all away, it would just go.
When I finally got my act together, I realized that my own failings were not our only obstacle. In fact, that was the least of our worries.
We’ve had a number of issues with the health insurance for our daughters over the years. Since we stopped working for other people, we’ve had to rely on what we can afford, like most families. There were months at a time when none of us had any coverage. We had to prove what our income looked like, which is not incredibly easy when you’re self-employed.
As soon as their insurance was active, we started to search via the insurance provider search. I’d always make sure that I was selecting broad options within the mental health field. Every single time I clicked that search button, it showed me the same thing. ZERO RESULTS. I extended it to 25 miles, 50 miles, even 100 miles. And still, nothing (and that was surprising since we lived in one of the larger cities in South Florida).
My daughter and I made lists of nearby offices that specialized in teen mental health. I emailed and called them all. I got the same answer from every single one of them,
“Sorry, we don’t accept that insurance.”
At that point, we were almost a year into the pandemic. We had remained at home the entire time. My daughter wasn’t getting the social interaction she was used to and desperately needed. She struggled with anxiety and depression, amongst other things. Virtual school just made things worse. My “A” student was suddenly failing most of her classes.
Things seemed to be getting worse. We felt helpless because we just couldn’t find anyone that accepted her insurance and we knew she needed help. After months of searching (and lots of praying), we made the commitment to figure out how to pay for it out of pocket.
Each time she had an appointment, I searched again, hoping that something would change. Hundreds of dollars later, it never did. I realized after speaking to other Moms in similar situations that we weren’t alone. Mental Health is not covered for teens by many insurance companies.
It wasn’t until we moved to a new city, hours north, and started my search again that we were able to find an office that takes her insurance. Finally.
What signs should parents be looking for?
The National Library of Medicine shared the following:
- Is your teen often angry or worried?
- Does your teen feel grief for a long time after a loss?
- Is your teen out of control?
- Does your teen use alcohol or drugs?
- Does your teen obsessively exercise, diet or binge eat?
- Does your teen hurt other people or destroy property?
- Does your teen do reckless things that could harm themselves or others>
- Does your teen feel depressed, sad or hopeless?
As a Mother, it makes me angry quite honestly, that our children don’t have access to everything they need medically. Especially during a pandemic when so many were stuck in their rooms, without physical interaction with their friends for months or years. Why isn’t teen mental health a priority?
Why are we so vocal these days about the importance of asking for help and then making it so difficult to get that help? Why isn’t therapy and access to medication for mental health conditions like anxiety and depression readily available to all teens, regardless of their insurance or lack thereof?
As we continue this journey with our teen, I encourage you to speak to yours. Make sure that line of communication is always open. Speak to your insurance company and confirm whether or not they cover mental and behavioral health issues, should you need them. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to speak up and voice your concerns.