Helping the Sick

The Taboo of Mental Illness

Sarah Kliff takes a look at the state of our nation's mental health system. Perhaps her most interesting point deals with the quiet taboo our culture places around seeking help for mental illness.

A 2007 study in the journal Psychiatric Services looked at 303 mental health patients who had, in the past year, thought about going to the doctor but decided against it. The researchers asked them why.

The most frequent response, from 66 percent of the patients, had to do with attitude: They thought the problem would get better on its own. Seventy-one percent agreed with the statement “I wanted to solve the problem on my own.”

Cost was a barrier too: 47 percent cited financial obstacles as a reason not to seek treatment. Still, attitudinal barriers about the value of mental health care seemed to be be the biggest obstacle.