School psychologist: Insurance plans should cover mental health care for our children | Opinion – NJ.com

A school psychologist says the consequences of not properly addressing mental health issues in our children are isolation, addiction, self-harm and suicide. That can all be prevented if the underlying illness is treated. Mental health is just as important as physical health – yet many insurance plans would have you think otherwise.
By Liz Matheis
As we get ready to send our kids back to school, I am happy that most of our lives are going back to the way things were pre-pandemic. But I am very concerned about the other healthcare emergency we are currently navigating – our mental health crisis.
The numbers are staggering — more than 40% of adults in New Jersey report symptoms of anxiety and depression. Our state’s youngest residents are feeling it, too — 72,000 kids between the ages of 12 and 17 have depression. I see it every day. As a licensed clinical psychologist and certified school psychologist, I hear how our kids are suffering. Anxiety levels are at an all-time high.
We shouldn’t be surprised by what’s happening. The pandemic robbed our kids of many significant milestones like graduations, field trips, proms and other important events that marked the accomplishment of a school year. Our children have lost time together. Our children lost social skills, laughs, spontaneous conversations, play dates, dances and occasions where interactions happen naturally and growth is sparked. Our children lost a part of their childhood.
One of the best ways we can help our kids recover from the last few years is to provide them with a place where they can share these thoughts, fears, worries, and losses so they can begin to heal and rebuild. That’s why therapy is so important. And that’s why now access to mental health care should be available and affordable to everyone who needs it. But sadly, that is not the case.
Impact Research and Expedition Strategies recently conducted a survey among New Jersey voters on behalf of Consumers for Quality Care (CQC), which underscores just how critical this situation is. An overwhelming 90% of New Jerseyans say it’s more important than ever that insurance companies cover mental healthcare. The poll also showed that 58% agree it’s difficult to find mental health providers who are covered by insurance. Nearly 40% think the greatest barrier that is keeping people from accessing mental health services is that they are not all covered by insurance. We need to do better… in fact, we must.
We’ve all seen the consequences of not properly addressing mental health issues. Things like isolation, addiction, self-harm and suicide can all be prevented if the underlying illness is treated. Mental health is just as important as physical health – yet many insurance plans would have you think otherwise. The lack of providers and affordable treatment options leaves many parents scrambling how to find the life-saving care their children need.
If we do nothing to help our kids get the help they need, we will be creating a generation without resilience who will ultimately numb themselves due to crippling levels of anxiety, depression and a sense of hopelessness and helplessness.
It’s time to ensure that everyone has access to quality, affordable mental health care.
Dr. Liz Matheis is a licensed clinical psychologist and certified school psychologist and owner of Psychological and Educational Consulting of New Jersey.
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