Teen Mental Health and the Lack of Insurance Coverage

therapist consoling a teen speaking about mental health

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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.

 

So many teens lack access to affordable health care coverage for mental health issues like anxiety and depression. This is our family's story.
So many teens lack access to affordable health care coverage for mental health issues like anxiety and depression. This is our family's story.

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Hello There!

I'm so honored that you've found us! I'm Heather, a Mom of 3 who blogs about parenting, food, occasional travel and how I overcame my daily struggle with anxiety. I miss sleeping and rely on coffee and laughter to get me through the day. I hope you enjoy and visit often!

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  1. We have three teenagers at home and our youngest has its own counselor. Last year, we used to pay $50 (Australian dollar) per hour per session. But it was been two weeks since she is benefiting from the free mental health program that our State Government imposed, which means all counseling sessions are now free-of-charge.

    We are glad that the Australian government recognized that mental health is important for everyone, and receives huge funding allocation.

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  2. Aaawwww….this is so sad that is happening to teens! Teens now need to access mental health services more than ever! I am glad you got a breakthrough.

  3. Since I’m having a child too, your post gives me a really good info about kid’s mental health. The post is really helpful!

  4. It is so wild to me how health insurance may not cover much for mental health when it’s such a big part of sustaining life. Thank you for writing about this. More people need to know about this.

  5. With the children’s and teenagers suffering from mental health, it’s really best to seek for professional help. Having an insurance can help getting the most out of the treatments they need and be able to maximize its benefits.

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      Thank you Ris. I am aware. The issue is, most affordable insurance companies will not cover mental health visits for minors, forcing people to have to pay out of pocket, which many can’t afford.

  6. Any kind of insurance. It would cost me $350 a paycheck to cover my son’s health insurance costs through work. I can’t afford that, so he has none.

  7. My 14-year-old daughter has been talking to a therapist since she was 10. She struggled with anxiety and we later found out that she had dyslexia and ADHD. Talking to a therapist has helped her deal with her issues and navigate adolescence more easily. It’s one of the best decisions that we have made for her. Fortunately, we found a therapist that takes our insurance which is good.

  8. I think as parents we feel that we are enough but sometimes our children need professional help and we should be able to provide this to them and having an insurance policy helps

  9. This is such an important topic and I am so glad we are talking about it. Teens need so many mental health resources and they are just not available.

  10. Thank you for posting this – it is so important these days to try and remove the stigma associated with mental health

  11. I couldn’t agree with this more. Our whole healthcare system in the US needs changes. People don’t have the coverage needed.

  12. I think its important for mental health to become more of a priority especially during this day and age. There needs to be more open conversation about it and insurances need to understand that mental health is just as important.

  13. It is such a struggle right not. I am finding there are not enough providers for mental health needs.

  14. I wish I saw a therapist as a teenager, it would have really helped as I struggled a lot! I totally agree that teen mental health and mental health in general should be a priority and I admire how supportive you are of your daughter!

  15. I can’t imagine how tough it must be knowing someone you love is having problems but struggling to get them somewhere for help. I’m glad that you found somewhere now you’ve moved and I hope your daughter is doing better x

  16. That’s awesome. She came up to you and told you about it. Some kids won’t have the same courage to speak about it.

  17. Mental health is a really important topic and important thing that everyone should value, this is such a really great article to read.

  18. It is so sad that some people didn’t value mental health, this is a really great topic, thanks for sharing this with us!

  19. This is something parents fail to notice. Thank you for the reminder to always make sure that communication is always open

  20. Wow I have never thought about this. Sad that there is a lack of coverage for teens and mental health and giving everything going on in the world and the rising rates of teen mental health issues this is definitely something that needs to be reviewed.

  21. I know what it is like to struggle to find coverage for mental help for teens. Sadly even young adults/adults find this hard during these times. I did find that ‘most’ areas have mental health resources in their public health building. Normally if you don’t have insurance they will offer payment on a sliding scale. It is worth checking out, as having to pay hundreds of dollars for help just doesn’t seem fair.
    I am glad she felt comfortable enough to come to you and ask for that help. I also know as a Mom it is one of the worst conversations to have with your child. I will keep you and your daughter in my thoughts.

  22. Our insurance system and treatment of mental health is so messed up. Thanks for this post. We need more conversations surrounding mental health.

  23. These are good points to think about, and mental health is so important. Thanks for sharing this and these important points. The pandemic has been an especially tough time for many people.

  24. It sucks that people don’t value mental health. I was lucky that our insurance covered most of my appointments, just a small copay. I don’t know if they would cover our child though.

  25. The lack of insurance for young adults is daunting. I’m so happy you’re bringing awareness to issues like this and I hope more people can make a change.

  26. It has always been so disheartening to me that our medical system seems to think that only physical illness is important enough to cover. Mental health is such a big part of our overall health, especially during the teen years when everything is heightened – both the good and the bad.

  27. This post makes me so emotional because even though I’ve shown a lot of signs and even asked for help a couple of times I’ve spent 8 years feeling like a weirdo when it turned out I was just dealing with depression. I’m so glad you were able to help your daughter because I definitely wish I had that. No kid should wake up in the morning thinking “I can’t wait to get back to sleep so I don’t have to think”

  28. Mental health is such an important subject for kids, adults, teens and everyone in general. Thank you for shedding more light on the subject and thanks for sharing your personal experience with us. It’s incredibly helpful.

  29. I had no idea that coverage was no accessible to teens. I started attending therapy at 18, which was free through my university, but I shudder to think of the bills my parents would have faced had I needed to attend earlier. As you said, open communication is everything and I wish you and your family a lot of luck and good wishes.

  30. I hate that it’s so hard to get help! People always say to ask for it but when you do, it’s difficult. I wish it wouldn’t be this way. I am always open with my kids. Maybe more than I should be, but I want them to know I’m always here.

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      I can tell, just by your posts, how much you love your kids. I can also see the connection you have. You are doing a great job.