In the UW system that I’m a part of, our tuition goes to pay for University Heath Services. A place where basic health problems can be dealt with and referrals can be obtained. When I had a back injury, I went there to receive free x-rays and a lot of vicodin for the pain. It’s free and open to the population of students and graduate students. Some 30,000+ people have access and it’s only 2 floors of medical services with labs on one floor. Yet, no lines, hardly any wait. Any cough, sniffle, etc… can be seen and if serious, can be treated. They also have their own pharmacy with reduced rates for common drugs so it’s like having insurance on top of it all.
In addition to this, there’s another floor for mental health. They provide short term care and emergency care. I’ll tell a little bit about how I got involved in it. Last december, things were going poorly, I had so much anxiety that I couldn’t even enter certain buildings on campus. The failure to make it to classes made my depression at the time even worse, which made my anxiety worse, and so forth. At the end of the semester, I finally worked up the courage to try and drop the classes, I couldn’t. I was depressed and I figured that I had something wrong with me. But that story wasn’t bought by the Dean. Locked in a situation where I was failing, unable to make it to classes, barely able to make it out of the house, and then finally turned away by the Dean, I planned to kill myself. The only hope that I had was that there was UHS there.
So I called, and they got me in immediately. And by immediately, I mean I went there, told them that I was feeling suicidal, and in 15 minutes they had me in a room with a consultant seeing if I was eligible for services. I qualified.
Being free, they do not accept everyone, they have to make sure that it’s serious, like my case. I’ve known other people who have been turned away, one who was depressed from a vitamin D deficiency. She got help from UHS though. But also, by being free, they saved my life. If anyone’s read my blog, I’ve been through insurance hell of trying to find a psychiatrist. I couldn’t have gone through that when I was that depressed. Plus, I don’t like hospitals, so that option would have been a far cry from what I really wanted. Instead, they gave me a free way out.
Included in the free ride, I received 10 free therapist visits and access to a psychiatrist. The staff was highly qualified and ready to help. In fact, I think they were more than happy to help since I was bipolar and most hadn’t really gotten to work with someone who had such a serious disorder. I’m sure most of them get anxiety disorders. And being free and accessible, they really turned my life around.
From my psychiatrist I received needed medical treatment and an experienced ear to tell my symptoms to. But what really shined was my therapist. He provided me with really high quality care and plenty of resources on what to do. His emphasis was on cognitive behavioral therapy. The strategies were incredibly helpful in managing my anxiety, now to the point that I barely panic when going into a test situation. Both Mr. A and Mr. F are responsible for helping me on the path to getting better.
They’re also responsible for saving my life. Free health care gave me access to the tools that I needed at the time to get better without the added stress of cost or number crunching. The focus was solely on me and getting better. If I had to crunch the numbers, I would have become more depressed over the costs and might not have sought the necessary treatment. Rather, I’d have tried to go it alone and never received medical treatment. In short, I’d probably be dead.
And this is of particular importance because of the number of individuals not receiving treatment. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that of individuals with any mood disorder, half receive treatment, but only one fifth receive minimally adequate care over 12 months. With anxiety disorders, only four in ten receive treatment, and 12% receive minimally adequate care. Schizophrenia does far better, nearly two thirds receive care for their disorder. And in general, with a 12 month prevalence of some mental illness at 36%, only 12% receive care.
This demonstrates a horrible discrepancy between the reality of mental illness and the treatment that is received. I was lucky, I had free access. I was in the one fifth. But without free access, I’d likely no longer be here. So I owe my life to UHS and Dr. A and Dr. F for providing their services.
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