Yeah, yeah, we’ve all heard that saying money can’t buy happiness, yet health and money are closely related.
As I see more headlines talking about mental health, suicide, and trying to navigate the system I wanted to take a minute to think about how money may shape what a mental health crisis looks like. Mental health can affect anyone of any background, but people have different access to resources to try and maintain their health, or deal with a crisis.
In the very fragmented Canadian mental health system, the better to do someone is the better care they can pay for.
This may include things like specific drugs that aren’t covered under plans (if they even have an insurance plan) or special therapy. Often, long term therapy is recommended, yet the government only funds one off sessions, or time limited therapy. Recently an important free group therapy program was recommended for me that had a 2 year wait list. When someone is struggling with mental health or in crisis, the more they can pay for care, the better they may get and the more stability they can buy. A doctor may recommend therapy, but if the person doesn’t have extra money, they may leave with just drugs, and not the complete care they really need.
This goes beyond thinking about therapy and drugs. The quality of mental health care one receives also has to do with social class and education. Often, in the fragmented and underfunded mental health system, quality of care depends on one’s ability to advocate, (or have friends/ family to advocate) and your ability to know your rights. I’ve witnessed first-hand how people of different education, class, racial backgrounds etc. are treated when trying to access care.
Dealing with a mental health crisis may ideally involve basically putting your life on hold, like any other health emergency. Yet beyond limited sick days at work, only some folks can afford to put their work, career, schooling, caregiving responsibilities aside until they are well. Pushing through and continuing to work while in crisis may make things worse, yet, they may have limited options to do what their body needs.
Lastly, when I’m thinking about mental health I’m thinking about social isolation. I’m lucky, in that I have my own (tiny) apartment in the city. Yet, it’s 45 minutes from my health care, job, and friends. When I’m not doing well, getting out means 2 hours round-trip on the subway, which isn’t realistic, if I only have the energy to be out for 2 hours total. I have little energy and motivation to exercise alone, yet if I had access to an unaffordable space like a gym or yoga studio, then I feel I’d be able to take care of my health better.
This discussion isn’t intended to sound like complaints, but rather to think about how money continues to shape how people are able to take care of their health—in this case mental health. Mental illness can be a challenge for anyone, yet the unique lives of people with mental illness are shaped by money.
So no, maybe money can’t buy happiness, but the more money you have, the better you may be able to treat conditions like depression.