I recently searched equity vs. equality to get a clearer understanding of how the two concepts are different from each other. I found a nice article on Mental Floss explaining that equality is about distributing the same resources to everyone, whereas equity is about distributing resources based on the needs of the recipients.
When it comes to mental healthcare, how can we create a system that meets people according to their individual needs? There is no single or “correct” answer to this question. In truth, it will take a collaborative effort from different levels of government, private businesses, the nonprofit sector, community groups, and individual citizens. At Acacia, we want to be thoughtful about what we can do as a business and healthcare providers to contribute to the solution of healthcare equity.
Acacia Roots is one of the ways that we’re working toward equity. Acacia Roots is a financial aid program that provides low-income students with access to high quality mental healthcare. If equity is about a distribution of goods and services, then we should start with what we know. We know that students who come from low-income backgrounds face more barriers to accessing consistent, high-quality mental healthcare than do their wealthier peers. One of these barriers is (somewhat obviously) financial. Low-income students are less likely to have parents with the means to help them pay for therapy, higher insurance deductibles, or no health insurance at all. Once we’ve recognized the financial barriers facing low-income students, we can understand that these students may not be making decisions that are based on their mental health needs, but instead are based on their ability to pay. We want to knock that barrier down.
If money is the only thing standing between a student and a therapeutic relationship that they need to realize their full potential, we want to help! By making the cost of therapy accessible, we give that student a safe place to explore past behaviors, understand the things that have happened to them, and find their own voice. When people know their gifts, their voice, and their potential, they can fully contribute to society as a whole! And we need a diversity of ideas. Therapy isn’t about telling someone what to think. It’s about creating a space for that person to think for themselves, understand emotions, and build resiliency. Personally, I’d hate to miss out on the cure to cancer or the next great technological innovation just because the person with the brain to solve that problem couldn’t find the words to present their idea.
Good mental health care is often about validating emotions, checking in with thoughts, and learning to listen to yourself and others. But for Acacia (and beyond), it also needs to be about getting care to as many people as possible, so that individuals can unleash their creative power, join together, and make the world a better place for everyone!
Written by Andrea Deuring, Director of Acacia Roots