There is affordable mental health care out there — here’s how to access it

With the sudden, tragic deaths of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade after taking their own lives in June, the subject of mental illness has been pushed to the forefront of society’s collective dialogue. The realization that suicide can touch such famous lives serves as a reminder that it also impacts our own lives and the people closest to us.

The alarming truth is that we are facing an epidemic. In 2016, suicide accounted for approximately 45,000 deaths alone. Over the past two decades, nearly every state in the U.S. has seen a rise in their suicide rates, with half of the states having an increase of over 30 percent.

While an increased public dialogue is a step in the right direction, the main obstacle that many with mental illness face is the access to proper care and treatment. Of the 40 Million Americans who suffer from mental illness, 56 percent do not receive care. Unfortunately, cuts to Medicaid, cuts to insurance through the Affordable Care Act, and the failure of Congress to renew CHIP have greatly limited access to mental healthcare.

Still, despite these obstacles, there are many resources that can make all the difference for you or for someone you love struggling with mental health. We need to more openly discuss how to access this help, and here are a few of the resources that may be available to you:

1Consider group therapy

When we think of mental health treatment, we often imagine one-on-one therapy with a psychologist, but this is not the only beneficial form of treatment. Group therapy is often helpful because it encourages patients to be more open and honest in the presence of others who understand their struggles.

Group therapy is also much more affordable than individual counseling, and just because it is less expensive, that doesn’t mean it is any less effective. Led by a counselor, group therapy offers professional guidance without the extra financial strain.

Groups can be referred by a psychiatrist or psychologist, through your general practitioner, or found online. Community centers and houses of worship sometimes offer group counseling for everything from substance abuse to interpersonal conflict.


2Use nurse hotlines

If you’ve ever been to the doctor’s office, you know that the health care system can’t run without its nurses. In fact, they are so essential that insurance companies, hospitals, and many employers provide free nurse hotlines for those in need of medical care.

In addition to health care direction, these hotlines also provide counseling and mental health services. Nurses trained in mental wellness are able to assess patients, provide counseling, and give guidance. If needed, they can also refer patients for hospitalization and psychiatric counseling.


3Utilize grad students

Seeing a psychologist can be very expensive, but therapy is often times the most effective tool in battling depression and other mental illnesses. Skip the bill and consider scheduling an appointment with a psychology grad student instead.

Counseling services from grad students are available at universities, giving these students hands-on experience evaluating and counseling patients. Educated in all of the latest mental health information, these students are well-informed and well-trained.

They are also closely monitored by certified medical professionals who review each case. Since these students are training to become mental health professionals, they understand the need for empathy, confidentiality, and care.


4Ask for medication samples before filling a prescription

Medication is often the other necessary component of mental health care, but it does not come cheap. Luckily, your doctor’s office is likely to have a great relationship with their pharmaceutical reps.

When it comes to medicating a mental illness, there is no one cure all drug. Often, it takes adjustments and readjustments to figure out what will help you best. If your doctor prescribes a new medication for you to try, ask for samples before filling the prescription. This can save you the cost of paying for various short-term prescriptions.

One thing to remember about mental illness is that it can make you feel hopeless. Convincing yourself to get help can be hard, but finding that help shouldn’t be.

If you or someone you care about is struggling and experiencing suicidal thoughts, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifelineat 1-800-273-8255 to speak with someone who can help. You can also chat with a counselor online here. All services are free and available 24/7. Additionally, here are ways you can help loved ones struggling with depression.

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