March 15th, 2023
Inaccessibility to Mental Healthcare
In the years following the COVID-19 pandemic, the crisis of poor mental health has skyrocketed for individuals all across the globe, with an observed 103% increase from 2019 to 2022 in individuals seeking out online mental health services according to the Mental Health Association. Unfortunately, many are unable to obtain sufficient access to mental health care, meaning that numerous individuals are not receiving the help they need in times of struggle due to a myriad of factors.
According to the National Council for Wellbeing, 95.6% of individuals have faced at least one barrier when it comes to seeking mental health care. The most prominent barrier is the lack of affordability, especially amongst those of the younger demographic and of low-income demographics. Insurance often does not fully cover therapy fees due to the myriad of reasons. This ultimately makes business unsustainable for a therapist; as a result, therapists opt out of taking insurance and prices must stay the way they are, even if people are less inclined to seek out necessary help because of it.
Additionally, numerous social stigmas surround the effectiveness of therapy and the overall detriment of poor mental health, resulting in people believing therapy is ineffective or they believe their mental health is not a priority. This further contributes to people’s unwillingness to seek help for their psychological distress, as they would have to pay hundreds of dollars for an ‘unimportant’ problem, and a solution is not guaranteed. For the individuals that are able to afford these services, psychological facilities often lack the resources to offer quick and efficient services.
With the surge in patients in need of mental health care after the pandemic, numerous services are unable to offer quick and efficient care to everyone who requests it. As a result of this issue, the number of those with mental health disorders has steadily increased. Dr. Daniel Whitney, a professional in psychiatry, states, “Untreated mental health disorders can have a debilitating impact on children’s healthful growth and throughout their transition to adulthood [...] This could lead to increased, preventable risk for these and other health conditions becoming worse later in life.”
The inaccessibility to mental healthcare will continue to be a hindrance to the progression of society as a whole that must be addressed as soon as possible. Learning more about this issue to increase awareness is just the essential first step to alleviating this ongoing crisis.
Yoga and Mental Health
Types of Yoga
Life is full of different stressors, whether you’re a student, working adult, and much more. And conveniently enough, a great way to release this pent up stress is through yoga, a term that originated from India over 2,000 years ago. Some of the different kinds of yoga are listed below:
Restorative yoga emphasizes more on meditation and is specifically meant to slow down and relax the body. People active in this kind of yoga focus on remaining in yoga poses, or asana, for 5-20 minutes each, paying special attention to their breathing. It doesn’t require a lot of movement and according to a meta-study conducted in 2019 on the impacts of different kinds of yoga, restorative yoga has been shown to result in better sleep, reduced stress, improved well-being, and reduced musculoskeletal pain.
Hatha yoga is known as “the yoga of force” and has deep origins in Indian culture. It consists of slow, controlled movements that involve asana (yoga poses), mantra (chanting/reciting), pranayama (breathing techniques), mudra (hand techniques), shatkriyas, and shatkarmas (cleansing techniques). Through practicing this kind of yoga, people hope to channel more of their spiritual energy and engage in good mind-body health. According to a study by the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, practicing hatha yoga can reduce anxiety and depression, establish mindfulness, improve sleep, and more.
Vinyasa yoga is known to be the exact opposite of hatha yoga as it primarily focuses on a “flow” of movements that synchronizes with the breath. It allows for participants to partake in a variety of different poses that allow for more movement compared to some other forms of yoga, increasing heart rate and improving flexibility. Additionally, this type of yoga is also known to reduce stress, risks of anxiety/depression, and improve moods on top of all the physical benefits vinyasa yoga comes with.
Bikram yoga falls under the category of hot yoga, which is yoga done in a sauna-like setting. Specifically, for Bikram yoga, a room is heated up to 105 degrees Fahrenheit that increases the intensity of the workout for participants. Hot yoga is considered to be more lax compared to Bikram yoga, as Bikram yoga takes place in a quieter, more serious setting. Some benefits of participating in this kind of yoga is that it burns more calories compared to traditional yoga due to the hot environment, and according to the American Psychology Association, has also been shown to reduce depressive symptoms. The excessive sweating that comes along with it also can help improve circulation and nourish skin, but it’s important to drink lots of water while participating in hot yoga to avoid dehydration!
At the end of the day, no matter what kind of yoga someone chooses to participate in, they all come with different kinds of benefits when it comes to both physical and mental health. It all boils down to personal preference on what a person wants to focus on, whether it’s their spirituality, flexibility, or stamina. There is always more to discover when it comes to yoga, and only through experience can someone truly learn the wonders that this form of exercise offers.
Everyone hears how exercising can be good for your health: it can reduce risk of diseases, such as cancer or cardiovascular disease, strengthen muscles and joints, assist with chronic pain, and so much more. But, when it comes to mental health, how does exercise have an effect on it?
Well, as it turns out, exercise has been shown to very clearly benefit mental health. According to numerous studies done by the CDC, exercise, depending on the intensity of it, has been found to reduce levels of depression and anxiety due to the release of endorphins, commonly referred to as “feel-good hormones.” This chemical is actually a peptide that helps reduce an individual’s perception of pain and being active releases the endorphin, endogenous cannabinoids, along with other brain chemicals like serotonin that can boost an individual’s mood. According to a study conducted by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the risk for major depression was reduced by 26% for those who ran for 15 minutes or walked an hour a day, further displaying the effectiveness of a little activity.
Being active also promotes brain activity, neural changes, and more that spread feelings of calmness throughout an individual. This helps reduce stress, especially as people have their minds taken off any negative or anxiety-filled train of thoughts. Additionally, physical activity is shown to relieve tension and relax muscles, further aiding to reduce stress in an individual.
So, if you’re ever feeling like you’re in a slump, sometimes going out and getting active can help! Motivation can be hard to find, but even walking outside for a short period of time can prove to be beneficial in the long run.
Author: Ellen Zulkarnain
Ellen Zulkarnain is an 18-year-old student at Irvington High School, who is super passionate about mental health and helping others. She has volunteered at a local kitten shelter and tutored children with special needs. She excitedly wishes to expand her service to the mental health industry by contributing to this blog. In her spare time, she loves putting together puzzles, playing with her dog, Mars, and spending time with her friends. We hope you enjoy her contributions.