Money: A Barrier to Mental Health Care

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Money: A Barrier to Mental Health Care

A recent article published in The Chronicle of Higher Education presented information about the challenges “facing stressed-out and debt-ridden medical students and trainees.”1 The author, Katherine Mangan, cites recent studies published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, which argue that students’ mental health issues may have a deleterious effect on their patients.

The majority of student health plans require co-payments for each outpatient visit and up to $500 per inpatient stay, in addition to coinsurance. A student could incur thousands of dollars of charges for treatment for mental health and substance abuse problems. Choosing to avoid these costs may result in endangering their health as well as that of their patients.

“Medical students experience higher levels of psychological distress than their peers, including depression and suicidality”, according to Wesley Boyd, assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. “Untreated, they tend to be less empathetic and altruistic and more prone to making medical errors. Many medical students are already reluctant to seek treatment, he said, and financial barriers make it even less likely they will seek psychiatric care.”2

Mayo Clinic researchers, in a study of internal medicine residents, found that “45.8 percent of the residents were emotionally exhausted and 28.9% reported that their mental state had left them feeling cynical or callous.”3 Financial stress compounded the problem as “the median debt for medical students... is $160,000.”4 Students who owed more than $200,000 were found to be more at risk.


1 Katherine Mangan, “Medical Students and Residents Are Stressed Out but May Face Barriers to Mental-Health Care,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, September 6, 2011. 2 Ibid. 3 Ibid. 4 Ibid.