When it comes to mental health, Americans are seemingly hypocritical. According to Kaiser Family Foundation’s latest tracking poll, while most of the public believes people with a mental illness suffer from discrimination and prejudice, they admit they’re uncomfortable around such individuals.
Roughly three-quarters of Americans believe individuals with severe mental health issues experience “a lot” or “some” discrimination, higher than the share who say the same about minorities, women and people with physical disabilities. Only immigrants were more likely to be perceived as experiencing discrimination, with 79 percent of the public saying immigrants faced “a lot” or “some” discrimination.
Two-thirds of parents say they would not feel comfortable having “a person with a serious mental illness” work in their child’s school. Nearly half the public (47 percent) would feel at least somewhat uncomfortable living next door to such a person, and 41 percent would feel uncomfortable working alongside them. Concerns were less severe among people under 30, and people with their own mental health issues or experiences with family members.
In terms of access to care, 8 percent of Americans say someone in their household has had problems getting needed mental health care, a proportion that rises to two in ten (20 percent) among those currently without health insurance. The most common barrier was cost, followed by insurance coverage issues and confusion over where to go.
The poll questions about mental health were prompted by the Newtown, Conn., elementary school shooting on Dec. 14.
The Department of Health and Human Services just expanded health reform’s essential health benefits rule to include mental health and substance abuse benefits.