The University of Mississippi’s Counseling Department never really gets a day off — working with the university’s population of nearly 25,000 students and faculty members, their services are in near-constant demand.
As nearly one-fifth of Americans struggle with a mental health disorder, with numbers on the rise since the onset of the massive societal changes starting in March of 2020, mental health awareness has evolved into an absolute necessity. Many of my closest friends, some of the most important people to me in the world, struggle with mental health issues, and it’s very concerning to sometimes see them go without adequate care — even scarier is the fact that, oftentimes, were they to be in a real crisis where they might be a danger to themselves, a stay in a mental health hospital is completely off the table.
In 2018, former President Donald Trump gave the go-ahead to inadequate health care plans, called association health plans, that do not conform to Affordable Care Act standards and usually do not include mental health benefits. Ever since, many people have been unable to afford the cost of checking into a mental health hospital, regardless of how desperately they need treatment.
In some circumstances, patients spending only five days in the hospital can face bills in the tens of thousands of dollars. Bills for mental health treatment in a hospital nearly always number in the thousands, with one study finding costs to patients are often 2.5 times the operating costs for the hospital.
The reality is that most Americans are unable to afford these exorbitant and, frankly, parasitic prices. In fact, 63% of Americans aren’t even prepared for a $500 crisis — these are the real consequences of declining wages, with many Americans being forced to live paycheck to paycheck with little financial flexibility. Further medical debt only serves to financially constrain these Americans even more, all the while worsening their mental health. The purpose of the healthcare system should be to cure people and provide them treatment — not to worsen their existing problems.
The writing is on the wall: The for-profit medical system only serves to raise prices to unthinkable levels for a first-world country. The more privatized the healthcare system becomes, the more out of reach quality care becomes to the average American. The only way to ensure that every American receives the care they deserve is to publicize the healthcare system. The vast majority of studies, regardless of ideological orientation, agree that a single-payer system would save trillions of dollars when compared to our broken and inefficient one.
A broken healthcare system is unacceptable. And for college students, many of whom are away from home for the first time in their lives, adjusting to college can cause a lot of stress and quickly exacerbate mental health issues, rendering access to quality mental health services essential. Unfortunately, the present reality is that many college students from middle-income and low-income families have varying access to healthcare, often making current prices for mental health treatment out of reach. The healthcare system has failed them.
If some of those students struggle with suicidal thoughts and decide to act on those thoughts, they may be unwilling to receive treatment at a mental health facility. If they do opt for treatment, the medical debt could significantly impact their financial situation, and even attending college may become out of reach. There should be no question that the impacts to their mental health would be dire.
We need socialized healthcare, both to cut costs and save lives. On a more personal level, I need socialized healthcare to protect my friends, but everyone needs access to quality mental health care regardless. Life is often unkind, and the inevitable hard times and painful situations that come with it can make anyone need more intensive mental health assistance sometimes.
If we want to protect the people we care about, if we want to do the nearly 66 million Americans that struggle with mental health justice, we need to ensure quality and affordable mental healthcare for everyone living in the United States. Anything less is unacceptable.
Hal Fox is a sophomore majoring in Chinese and international studies major from Robert, Louisiana.