The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released provisional data Wednesday showing a tragic 49,449 people committed suicide in the United States last year. Unfortunately, this is a 3% increase from 2021 and the highest levels ever recorded in America. Men, especially senior men, are more likely to die by suicide, but the suicide rate rose more rapidly in 2022 for women—especially women ages 25 to 34. Suicides by children and teens, however, decreased year-over-year.

A study from the Cohen Veterans Network (CVN), a national not-for-profit philanthropic organization, and the National Council for Mental Wellbeing researched the root causes of why people don’t seek mental health care. Among their findings:

  • High Cost and Insufficient Insurance Coverage: Forty-two percent of the population saw cost and poor insurance coverage as the top barriers for accessing mental health care. One in four (25%) Americans reported having to choose between getting mental health treatment and paying for daily necessities.

Several individuals blamed the U.S. government and insurers for not providing enough funding and support for access. Nearly one in five of Americans, or 17%, noted they have had to choose between getting treatment for a physical health condition and a mental health condition due to their insurance policy. The majority (64%) of Americans who have sought treatment believe the U.S. government needs to do more to improve mental health services.

  • Limited Options and Long Waits: Access to face-to-face services is a higher priority for Americans seeking mental health treatment than access to medication. Ninety-six million Americans, or 38%, have had to wait longer than one week for mental health treatments. And nearly half of Americans, or 46%, have had to or know someone who has had to drive more than an hour roundtrip to seek treatment.

In short, many Americans are desperate for better mental healthcare options, e.g. greater competition, that would allow them to select plans that are better tailored to their specific mental healthcare needs. The long wait times for mental health care can be emotionally and mentally debilitating—and even fatal—for patients in a fragile mental state. 

Expanding government-run health care instead of private options is correlated with longer wait times. In the case of mental health care, this can be fatal for patients struggling with suicidal ideation.

The study also cites the lack of telehealth options for mental health care as a barrier. While the COVID-19 pandemic saw more healthcare practitioners offering telehealth services, in part due to regulatory constraints, practices are unfortunately starting to revert to pre-pandemic protocols limiting telehealth. And psychotherapists and psychiatrists also face strict regulation over practicing remotely across state lines. It’s time government worked for mental health care instead of in many ways undermining it.