Why does it feel like searching for mental health care is bad for your mental health? The reason is that it can be confusing, demoralizing and downright stressful to navigate all the dead ends on the way to eventually finding care. This is especially true if you don’t have unlimited funds. First, if you’re reading this and need immediate mental health help, call emergency services at 911 or the National Suicide Prevention line at 1-800-273-TALK or the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) referral line at 1-877-SAMHSA7. You can also text “NAMI” to 741741.
Next, the most streamlined way to receive mental health care is through your health insurance. The Affordable Care Act requires that almost all individual and group plans offer mental health and substance abuse benefits. Medicare and Medicaid cover mental health care as well. If you don’t currently have health insurance, talk to you employer or visit HealthCare.gov to enroll. Once you have health insurance, call your insurer and ask four important questions: 1) What is my copay?; 2) How many sessions are covered; 3) Are there restrictions for whom I can use as a mental health provider?; 4) Can you provide recommendations for mental health providers? This part can be cumbersome: Plan to spend some time on hold. The good news is that if you can connect with ANY mental health professional, even if it turns out this first point of contact isn’t a good fit, he or she will be able to refer you to other sources of support. Of course, you can always use other sources of recommendations including family, friends and your primary care provider.
All that said, the fact is that many of us still don’t have health insurance or can’t afford mental health care co-pays. When this is the case, it can be easy to believe that you simply can’t get help. But that’s not true. Even if you can’t pay and don’t have insurance, there are ways to get mental health care.
For example, did you know the federal government funds community health centers that offer free or sliding-scale mental health care? Find a Federally Qualified Health Center here: https://findahealthcenter.hrsa.gov/
Or evaluate the services offered by mental health professionals in training. University hospitals and psychoanalytic training institutes often offer low-fee services provided by supervised trainees. Online tools also exist to find free or low-cost mental health care. Try OpenCounseling.com. Or find help through a local nonprofit using THIS list from VeryWellMind. Many of these resources can connect you with video, chat or phone mental health services, which can make access easier for those without childcare or transportation flexibility. Cities, counties and states also tend to have mental health resources, some of which are easy to navigate and some of which can be terribly frustrating.
The long and the short of it is that anyone, regardless of location or income, can receive mental health care. You don’t have to suffer alone. If you’re willing to reach out, there is help.