Many barriers stand in the way of someone seeking help for a mental health condition – the stigma surrounding illnesses and addictions, fear of the unknown, the financial cost, and even where a person lives can make getting help challenging. The goal of marketing is to remove as many barriers to treatment as possible and make it clear to those in need that it’s possible and worthwhile.
Content Journey helps treatment centers use marketing campaigns to remove barriers and increase client loads. One of our clients even went on a waitlist for more than a year, partly thanks to our marketing efforts.
In this post, we discuss how to use marketing to clear the path for people to get the help they need and deserve.
Understanding Barriers to Treatment
Recovery might seem impossible with the barriers to treatment and the illness itself. The good news is that once you recognize these challenges, you can take steps to overcome them through strategic marketing.
Stigma and Discrimination
Stigma is one of the first obstacles to overcome. It prevents those in need and their loved ones from even acknowledging there is a problem. This judgment often starts from within, damaging self-esteem and causing feelings of hopelessness and self-blame.
Helping people understand that these conditions are medical disorders and not a choice can be challenging, especially when many people around them don’t see it that way. In a study from Johns Hopkins University, 43% of respondents wouldn’t give people with substance use disorders the same health insurance benefits as those without.
Facing discrimination like that is tough. Many people end up hiding instead of seeking help. Socially, the fear of rejection from friends and family leads many people to deny their struggles and isolate themselves. When they need support, they feel discouraged and might avoid getting help to prevent judgment from those close to them.
After overcoming the hurdle of stigma, getting access to assistance becomes another tough challenge. Nearly half of the U.S. population lives in areas where mental health professionals are scarce. This shortage makes it challenging for people to find help, leading to long waits for distant and inconvenient providers. Many hospitals, especially outside big cities, lack the space and services to treat substance use disorders.
Even if a person manages to find a center, it often comes with a hefty price tag. More than 40% of people with mental illness say they can’t afford treatment. Even when people have insurance, and the center accepts it, copays can quickly add up, especially when multiple visits are required. This financial barrier makes treatment seemingly impossible for people without the financial means to pay out of pocket.
Someone in a rural area deciding to seek help for substance use might quickly discover that the nearest provider is hours away. If they still decide to seek help, the cost of getting to the center, on top of the cost of treatment (even with insurance), can put a significant strain on any family’s budget, making it challenging to continue getting the help they need and deserve.
Lack of Awareness
When someone doesn’t realize the severity of a condition, they are unlikely to seek help for it. Often, people underestimate the severity of a disorder, thinking it’s not a big deal or that everyone has similar feelings and challenges. Media stereotypes sometimes fuel this misunderstanding.
Media often portray people with conditions like substance use disorders at their worst — reaching rock bottom and depicted as dangerous and out of control. These dramatic stereotypes can create a skewed perception, making it more difficult for someone to recognize their own concerns as valid and worthy of seeking help for.
At this point, people also might believe they can still rely on willpower to overcome an addiction independently. It’s difficult to remember that these are medical issues, not just bad habits or phases. Grasping that seeking help is a necessary step, not a weakness, can be challenging.
Fear of the Unknown
Deciding to start treatment can also be intimidating when there’s uncertainty about what to expect. People naturally have questions about the center, how they will spend their time there, and who they’ll work with.
Think about it this way: even for a good situation, like planning a vacation, would you feel confident about going if you didn’t see what the hotel or rooms looked like, know the activities planned, and had no reviews about the staff? That would make anyone anxious.
This fear of the unknown is monumentally greater when committing to a treatment center. When people wrestle with seeking help, not knowing the details can amplify apprehension and doubt.
Overcoming Barriers to Treatment with Marketing
These obstacles likely aren’t new to you. It’s also possible that you’re aware of other unique concerns that aren’t listed above. But just considering common challenges makes it easy to see why the path to recovery can seem insurmountable for some people.
Now, think about how you can help provide solutions. What information are you aware of that could make treatment seem more realistic to those in need? Strategic marketing can be a powerful tool to make the road to recovery more accessible.
Promote Open Conversations
To break the stigma around treatment, develop marketing strategies that promote open conversations and avoid stereotypes or shaming. Consider leading by example and reminding your audiences that mental health professionals, just like anyone else, deal with mental health concerns.
When you tell these stories in your marketing, it can help people understand that a substance use disorder isn’t a moral failing. You can also share stories of people going through different stages of addiction and their journeys to recovery.
Avoid making the problem worse by using language that makes people with addiction or mental health problems seem dangerous. Instead, use words in your copy that are kind, accepting, and inclusive.
Knowledge is power, and when people better understand addiction, mental health disorders, and treatment options, they can better support their loved ones and others experiencing it.
Reduce Financial Barriers
Clearly outlining the costs of treatment is essential. Transparency around final costs and explanations of different insurance options, including Medicaid, can help ease concerns around payments.
While many people don’t expect mental health or substance use programs to be included in insurance offerings, the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 requires it to be covered like other medical costs, assuming the center accepts insurance.
On your website, share examples of bills and offer free financial consultations to show honesty and transparency and build trust. Also, discuss different ways to pay for treatment in your marketing materials, like in-house plans, third-party options, or sliding scale fees. Explaining these choices makes help feel more realistic, especially for those without insurance.
In your content, offer simple ways for people to recognize when they might need professional care. Online quizzes or assessments provide a self-reflective tool to answer questions. Support the results with statistics and information to quickly dispel myths, reassuring potential clients that they’re not alone and offering actionable steps to move forward in seeking treatment.
All content from your center should challenge stigmas and offer data-backed information on various disorders and treatment options. Feature experts to reinforce that these are medical conditions, not choices, and use all your channels – from social media and blogs to email newsletters – to amplify your content, breaking down barriers to understanding and encouraging people to seek help.
Taking the uncertainty out of a potential client’s journey is one of the most simple yet impactful steps to removing barriers to treatment. Offering comprehensive “what to expect” resources provides clear expectations for the process, acting as a roadmap, offering transparency, and easing apprehensions.
Elements such as photos and bios of the staff members will help potential clients put faces to names and create a sense of familiarity and trust. Adding images and maps of the center and client rooms helps demystify the environment.
In addition to these resources, consider sharing real-life experiences from others who have undergone the same treatment. With this marketing content, you eliminate uncertainty and create a more supportive and comfortable atmosphere for people seeking care.
Build Trust through Collaborations and Partnerships
Many potential clients already have a trusted relationship with their primary healthcare professionals. Reach out to these providers to build connections through invitations to your center or by sending them additional information. By fostering these relationships, healthcare professionals are more likely to recommend your center to their patients. When clients receive a recommendation from a trusted professional, the center doesn’t need to start gaining their trust from scratch.
You can also extend your impact by forming partnerships with other medical professionals, mental health organizations, and advocacy groups. Collaborate on marketing campaigns aimed at addressing stigmas associated with seeking treatment. By working together, you broaden your reach and optimize your resources, breaking down barriers and fostering a more supportive environment for those needing help.
Treatment Marketing Done Right
Removing barriers to treatment comes down to building trust, fostering understanding, and creating supportive environments. By implementing these strategies in your marketing, you can make seeking help a more accessible and comforting journey for everyone.
A marketing partner experienced in mental health and addiction marketing can be a valuable ally in ensuring the right messages reach the right people. At Content Journey, we understand this type of marketing and follow a set of guiding principles for all the mental health content we create. Contact us today, and let’s work together to connect you with those who need your help the most.