The Alarming Cost of Mental Health Care

I have struggled with mental illness my entire life. I was first diagnosed with severe depression and given medication when I was 16 years old. Three days later I attempted suicide by swallowing the entire bottle and began my 30 year journey in and out of the mental health care system. I was hospitalized for 52 days and started the life long roller coaster ride of managing my mental illness. I have had periods where I have done well and my symptoms were under control. Unfortunately that is usually followed by a period of dark times where my symptoms return.

My most recent high period was when I was in college six years ago. I was 40 years old, and had not sat in a classroom since dropping out of high school upon being discharged from the hospital after my first suicide attempt. I did amazingly well; I became a student mentor and was president of the honor society on our campus.  I graduated with highest honors and was valedictorian of my class. Finally I thought I had beaten my demons, and could be a productive, successful adult. But as history has proven the higher you climb the harder the crash.

The crash that followed this period of success has been brutal, resulting in a 12 day hospitalization in May 2014. I am still trying to recover, but I am just as depressed today as I was the night I attempted to hang myself. I’ve been the therapy, I’ve been placed on many different medications, and have had no improvement whatsoever. I still think of suicide almost daily. The longest I have been able to go with out self harm is two weeks.

It has become apparent that none of the medications I have tried have been effective, so my treatment team has recently begun a different approach with different medications. The cost of these new medications is alarming. I have a job, I have insurance, yet these medications that could possibly control my symptoms and set me on the path to stability are priced out of my my ability to afford them. Brinetellix, which is a new type of anti-depressant would cost me $85 out of pocket for a 30 day supply. Seroquel XR, an atypical antipsychotic most commonly used to treat schizophrenia, cost me $80 out of pocket for a 30 day supply. As if the co-pays aren’t hard enough to swallow the retail prices are alarming. Brinetellix retails for $245.48 for a 30 day supply. Seroquel XR retails for $776.99 for a 30 day supply. That is $ 25.80 per pill . Yes, you read that correctly, this medication costs almost $26 per pill.

Most mental illness is not sudden onset. Symptoms often begin to appear slowly over time, taking months and sometime years to become an impediment to everyday life. If caught early enough, many mental illnesses are manageable with the right treatment.  The outrageous cost of medication is a  major barrier to people getting relief from their symptoms. We sit and wonder why homelessness is such a huge problem in the United States. It is a well known fact that mental illness and drug or alcohol abuse are huge contributing factors in a person becoming homeless. We have the knowledge, the tools, and the infrastructure to care all who need help.  Money should never, ever be a barrier to a person getting the care they require, yet the health care system in the United States is driven by profit, not a desire to help those in need. This is criminal and it needs to stop, it needs to stop NOW.

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3 comments

  1. I am battling this problem right now. It’s a vicious cycle. I was out of work a few days due to my mental state (I just couldn’t function as a teacher) and lost $500. My Fetzima is $185/mon WITH insurance. I simply cannot afford to be fully medicated right now– and I’m so worried because I know how I am without it. I was hospitalized 9 days in Aug & I don’t want to return, but I can’t pay the cost to medicate. I’m just stuck & it’s horrible…

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