Socioeconomic Status and Access to Therapy

Mental health is an essential element of a person’s well-being and ability to function in society. Mental health illness hinders one’s ability to work, socialize, and complete typical daily activities necessary for survival. However, psychology and psychiatry development ensured that these problems could be addressed either through medication or by using different types of therapy. While this partially resolves the problem of mental health illnesses because it allows individuals to get help, not everyone can receive these services. One predeterminant of whether an individual will address their mental health concerns is the socioeconomic factors (SES), which include income, social class, financial security, and perceptions of one’s social status. This research aims to determine the SES factors that impact a member of a minority community’s decision to seek professional mental health help.

The broader context of access to the services for mental health care is the increasing prevalence of mental health illnesses in the United States and people’s lack of awareness that they have a mental health problem, which has to be addressed. Richter et al. (2018) state that globally, there is a moderate increase in the prevalence of these disorders. This trend has been present for years, and if the increase continues, the global community will have to deal with a large number of patients who require mental health help. In this light, some researchers examined the ability of different social groups to access mental health services, with an attempt to determine whether if the existing demand for these services is satisfied.

Several studies point out the fact that the needs for mental health care of different communities are satisfied disproportionately. For example, Assari (2017) states that income and ethnicity influence whether a person will get mental health help. The African Americans report is having less access to these services when compared to others. Additionally, Narendorf and Palmer (2016) state that a person’s perception of the necessity to address their mental health condition is an important aspect contributing to the prospects of obtaining care services. As a result, there is evidence suggesting that the mental health support needs of some individuals are not satisfied, and it may be connected to their socioeconomic characteristics. However, the gap in the existing studies is the decision that led to an individual choosing to access mental health care remains unclear. Therefore, the research indicates the disproportionate access to mental health care services within different communities and by researching the factors that led to the decision of people from those communities to get mental health care one can design policies and strategies for increasing the number of adults with mental illnesses who receive professional help.

The examination of this side of the problem will help understand how, in certain communities, the need to access mental health care can be promoted, which can help reduce the number of severe mental illnesses or adverse effects associated with mental illnesses that remain untreated for extensive periods. Hence, empirically, the exploration of this topic for a Ph.D. study can help determine the actual relationship between ethnicity, age, and decision to obtain mental health care. From a practical perspective, this study will help develop programs that target increasing the awareness about mental health problems.

Statement of the Problem

The problem to be addressed by this study is the underutilization of mental health services by low SES individuals due to unequal access. Gonzalez et al. (2016) and Silva et al. (2016) reported that socioeconomic status has a strong impact on mental health and basic psychological needs. According to Delgadillo et al. (2016), the “prevalence of mental health problems is greater in poorer areas,” and “these areas have lower average recovery rates” (p. 429). People from more vulnerable social groups experience more mental health problems and have less access to mental health services (Creedon et al., 2016; Derr et al., 2016; Memon et al., 2016). Low income, ethnic and racial disparities, age, and area of living may constitute barriers in this regard (Finegan et al., 2018; Hodgkinson et al., 2017; Platell et al., 2017). Mental disorders can exacerbate the living situation of people from vulnerable groups, thus exacerbating social and economic circumstances.

These social groups have their own perception of barriers and need for mental healthcare, which is an additional significant factor of its underutilization (Packness et al., 2019; Stepanikova et al., 2017; Villatoro et al., 2018). People from vulnerable communities are not willing to trust and use professional assistance because of perceived discrimination and healthcare disparities (Holley et al., 2016; Maura et al., 2017). According to Wilson et al. (2018), misconceptions and stigma in this regard prevalent among discriminated and vulnerable groups affect their underutilization of mental health services and need to be investigated. This research is intended to explore what SES are associated with perceived barriers and low perceived need for mental health services. The self-determination theory can be used to investigate this issues (Gonzalez et al., 2016). Lack of research data in this area may lead to mental health and socioeconomic deterioration of vulnerable groups.


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