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The Costs of NOT Treating Mental Illness

It’s no secret that health insurance is expensive, and paying for mental health services can be outrageous as well. When you and your partner have a large pile of bills to pay, it can make a difficult decision to forgo mental health appointments and psychiatric medications appear–on the surface–to be easier.

No money = No care, no meds. Period. End of story. Right?

Unfortunately, you and your partner may have already discovered what happens when mental health treatment is stopped abruptly. Or if you are considering this possibility, you may be in for an unpleasant surprise.

The ramifications of not getting appropriate treatment go much further than just a depressed mood or anxious thoughts and feelings. It could result in an untimely death.

Untreated mental illness can affect not only the person with the illness, but everyone around them as well. While it may seem costly in the moment to pay for doctor’s visits, therapy sessions, and/or medications, the long-term costs (and not just in dollars and cents) of not treating it are far higher.

  1. Physical health: People with untreated mental illnesses are at higher risk for other diseases, including coronary artery disease. They also do not recover as well after a major illness or surgery, putting them at higher risk of complications, which then require more costly care.
  2. Alcohol and drug abuse: These are higher among people with untreated mental illness. People who do not have access to or choose not to access mental health services will sometimes “self-medicate” with drugs and alcohol. In addition to the risk of becoming addicted to substances, your partner may also accidentally overdose or be involved in an accident while under the influence, which can lead to hospitalizations, lawsuits, and maybe even jail.
  3. Employment problems: When someone has an untreated mental illness, it can be difficult or impossible to go to work. This can result in a loss of income, which can then lead to a poorer quality of life. Also, without the daily routine of going to work and having a purpose for getting up in the morning, your partner’s illness can worsen as thoughts of worthlessness and being a burden might weigh your partner down.
  4. Risk of suicide: This is a very real risk for people with untreated mental illness. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, more than 90% of people who die from suicide have depression and other mental disorders, or a substance abuse disorder. Men commit almost 75% of suicides, even though twice as many women attempt it. If your loved one is talking about suicide, don’t wait: call 800-273-8255 for assistance.

There are options for getting low-cost mental health treatment. Click here for more information.


The Costs of NOT Treating Mental Illness

Kate Thieda

Kate Thieda, MS, LPCA, NCC, is a patient advocate for Women's and Children's Services at Duke University Hospital in Durham, North Carolina. She is a licensed professional counselor associate and a National Certified Counselor who specializes in cognitive-behavioral and dialectical behavior therapies. Her book, Loving Someone With Anxiety, will be published by New Harbinger in the spring of 2013.

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APA Reference
Thieda, K. (2012). The Costs of NOT Treating Mental Illness. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 6, 2020, from


Last updated: 9 May 2012
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