This resource is an infographic that details the barriers that people with behavioral health issues face when trying to seek health care and treatment. It is a helpful resource for care providers, public health employees/officials, and mental health professionals working with people experiencing behavioral health issues. Barriers to treatment can have serious impacts, making the need to clear the way to care urgent. Because obstacles can originate with a variety of different parties and institutions, efforts to ensure access must take a broad public health approach in order to be successful.

Patient, provider, and system factors all affect the ability of individuals with behavioral health issues to seek treatment and health care, which is why an integrated public health approach to ensuring access holds promise. Patient factors that may pose barriers to effective health care include medication side effects, transportation, distrust of providers, and difficulties in communicating needs, among others. Similarly, providers have many competing demands on their attention and time and may lack awareness around behavioral health issues or hold negative attitudes toward people who have them, while healthcare systems may introduce additional challenges through poor policies and procedures around serving people with behavioral health challenges. Sixty percent of premature deaths among people with serious mental illness are due to preventable and treatable medical conditions, demonstrating the terrible cost of unaddressed barriers to care. People with serious mental illness also face greater healthcare expenses than the general public, with costs being two to three times higher than that of the general public.

A public health approach that addresses these barriers provides increased public and family education, recovery-oriented services, prevention efforts, and strengthened partnerships across community programs. Through these strategies, care for people with behavioral health issues is improved, strengthening communities and reducing adverse outcomes, including unnecessary hospital admissions and avoidable loss of life.

This resource was first shared in 2017.

(Infographic: PDF, 152 KB; Text Alternative: PDF, 199 KB)