Esperanza Ceja: Mental health care is not a luxury. It’s a necessity.

Access to mental health care is considered out of reach for most Americans.

Editor’s noteThis article discusses suicide. If you or people you know are at risk of self-harm, call or text 988 to reach the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline for 24-hour support.

A luxury is buying the newest car or the newest iPhone, it is not being able to have access to readily available and affordable mental health care.

Mental health care affects our society as a whole because it directly shapes and impacts the way we think, feel and, most importantly, the way we act. Ignoring or treating mental health care as unimportant or as a luxury has been shown to increase suicide and unemployment.

Access to mental health care is considered out of reach for most Americans. On a state level, 40.9% of adults in Utah claim to have feelings of anxiety and/or depression. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 26.4% of those people were not given access to any type of counseling, therapy or medicine.

IBIS Health reports that, as a result of Utahns not being able to get the help they need, our state has had a consistently higher suicide rate than that of the national rate. Utah loses 657 lives due to suicide each year, according to the Utah Department of Health. This statistic calls to action the immense change that Utah needs to undergo in order to save the lives of not only the individuals suffering from mental health, but also their families, friends and peers.

Does mental health care still seem like a luxury to you? Because the reality is that we are dependent on our mental health to live. How could it truly be a luxury if it’s something we need to live? We don’t need the newest car, clothes, phone, etc., but we do need food, water, housing and good health to live.

Mental health also impacts a critical part of our state’s economy.

Unemployment has increased significantly since the COVID-19 pandemic, and it isn’t just due to an individual not liking their job. JobSage reports that 40% of adults claim their jobs have had a negative impact on their mental health and, as a result, 1 in 4 people quit their job.

JobSage also reports that 1 in 5 employees claim that their jobs don’t do enough to help them with their mental health. This is an obvious cry for help in making mental health care be seen as a necessity and not something that can just be brushed off.

Unemployment will affect our immediate future as well as our long term future by increasing homelessness, crime, suicide and the economy at large.

If we look even deeper into the scarcity of mental health care we can view the rural areas of Utah. The residents in rural areas struggle with attaining resources of mental health care providers. In fact there is only one mental health care provider per 55,000 residents compared to that of the different parts of Utah where it is 1 per 25,000, according to Mental Health America.

This affects not only my life but the lives of many Americans today. As a kid, I suffered from anxiety and depression, and so did my older sister. My mother has never had good health insurance and getting my sisters and me help was nearly impossible. Suicide attempts and unemployment were some of the many issues brought along by not having access to mental health care.

As a kid, I would have given up everything — including my toys and clothes — just to get help for the battles I had to fight in my head. I understand that mental health care is not a luxury, nor should it be treated as such.

We all need to do our part in learning more about mental health care and being aware of its effects. In doing so, we can begin to make informed decisions and vote for candidates that will support policies that make mental health care more accessible.

Esperanza Ceja

Esperanza Ceja is a 19-year-old Mexican American from Murray. She is in her first semester of college and hopes to become a lawyer.