One recent evening at Middletown’s Russell Library, a group of young millennials sat around a table in an out-of-the-way spot, sharing their experiences of debilitating depression and anxiety.
“I think you just get to the point where you’re like, ‘I don’t want to live like this anymore,’ ” said Old Saybrook resident Collin Schuster, 25, who has been diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder and depression. “The really important thing for me is to reach out for support.”
The session is one of more than 60 support groups offered by the Connecticut chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). This one is specifically for young adults, age 18 to 29.
Between 2014 and 2017, the prevalence rate for depression grew 31%, the largest increase of any health condition affecting millennials age 21 to 36, according to a recent Blue Cross Blue Shield report that examined those covered by commercial health insurance.
Millennials between the ages of 34 and 36 in 2017 are less healthy than Gen Xers were at the same age in 2014, according to the report, which also found that millennials had higher rates of depression, substance abuse disorder and hyperactivity, among other illnesses.
Major depression diagnoses are rising faster in teens (63%) and millennials (47%) than in any other age group, but millennials are more likely to think that there are not enough treatment options available, with one in five not seeking any treatment, the report found.
Accessing treatment for mental health care can be difficult. “There’s just a dearth of services everywhere,” said David Bendor, a licensed clinical psychologist who runs the Institute of Living Young Adult Medical Track clinic, an outpatient program that treats young adults for medical and mental health issues.
According to the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), there are 413 facilities in Connecticut that offer substance abuse and mental health services. New facilities that have completed a survey and have met all requirements are added monthly, according to the SAMHSA website.
Cost, location and insurance coverage also play huge roles in getting people the care they need, Bendor said.
The 2019 Consumer Report Card on Health Insurance Carriers in Connecticut reports that rejection rates for residential mental health care among eight of the state’s top insurers ranged from 6% (ConnectiCare Benefits, Inc.) to 43% (Oxford Health Insurance, Inc.).
Oxford also rejected the most claims for routine outpatient care, at a rate of 30%, while others ranged between 1% (ConnectiCare Benefits) and 29% (UnitedHealthcare Insurance Company).
Under the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA), insurance plans and issuers that offer coverage for dependent children are required to make that coverage available until the child turns 26.
Then, the young adult must find his or her own insurance, which is often expensive, said Patricia Rehmer, senior vice president of Hartford HealthCare and president of its Behavioral Health Network.
“Those deductibles are a lot of money for young people,” she said. When forced to prioritize individual health decisions, “mental healthcare is going to be the one that falls off first,” Rehmer said.
Two years ago Valerie Lepoutre, 25, of Middletown faced such decisions. As a young adult, Lepoutre was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and depression and was being treated with the drug Latuda. But when her mom could no longer afford to keep Lepoutre on her health insurance plan, Lepoutre couldn’t afford the out-of-pocket cost for the drug. So, she stopped taking the medication and instead is being treated with weekly behavioral therapy sessions with a therapist that offers her a discounted rate, she said.
The demand for mental health services among young adults is projected to continue to grow, health experts say. According to its 2018 annual report, the Center for Collegiate Mental Health found that anxiety and depression were the top two concerns among students. Anxiety did not increase in prevalence for the first time in four years, but depression did, the report said. Among students receiving counseling services, the self-reported prevalence rates of “threat to self,” suicidal ideation and suicide attempts increased, according to the report.
Ariela Reder, director of counseling services at Quinnipiac University in Hamden and a licensed clinical psychologist, says she’s seen a 40% increase in the number of undergraduate and graduate students seeking mental health services during the first six weeks of classes this year compared to the same period last year. Anxiety, depression and relationship issues are the top three reasons students seek help, she said.
Reder said students are feeling pressure to be successful, have worries about student loan debt and express emotional issues stemming from the use of social media.
“Social media is not the devil, but it creates this phenomenon of comparison,” Reder said.
“When you’re not getting that validation of the ‘likes,’ when people are not responding as quickly as you feel they should, it can be devastating for them.”
To find CT NAMI support groups click here.