mental health services

Finding Mental Health Services When Your Government Doesn’t Care About You

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Jules Ozone

I’m an introverted feminist blogger. If you need me I’ll be in my room on my computer, laughing at my own jokes.

Welcome to the new Age of Oppression, folks, one where a petty, ignorant Cheeto has the power to wipe out our access to social services with one stroke of his tiny-hand-sized pen. While this terrifying new administration is moving forward with slashing funds to every single thing that is beautiful and good in this country, the one I’d like to talk about is mental health care. We now find ourselves in a devastating bind: while the impending policies of the new administration have already caused a significant uptick in rates of depression (the number of calls to the National Suicide Hotline tripled what it had been on the night of the election), the availability of mental health services that could help those suffering is expected to drop off right when they’re needed as Trump’s team guts the ACA and presumably federal funding to many community organizations.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports that while nearly 1 in 25 adults in the U.S. suffer from a serious mental health condition, less than 40% of these adults receive mental health services. This lack of access to services can stem from individuals’ unwillingness to reach out for help due to the stigma associated with mental illness in the U.S., but it also implicates a serious accessibility problem in our system, one which is only going to get worse as the POTUS takes away our healthcare.

What follows is a less than exhaustive list that I’ve put together for folks struggling with their mental health but who aren’t sure where to start looking for support. Beyond seeking out professional resources, I of course also recommend reaching out to friends and family who you are comfortable disclosing your struggles to; chances are there are people in your life who have struggled with the same thing who may be able to offer your support based on their own experiences.

If you are having thoughts of hurting or killing yourself, call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

It doesn’t matter if you are just thinking of suicide for the first time or if you have an active plan to hurt yourself; the trained staff at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can offer you their support. Typically, the call will be transferred to a crisis line in your area, and the person on that line will gather information about your story, intentions, and the level of danger that you may be in. In my experience, the staff member has answered with something comforting like, “I’m here to listen”, and it can be helpful just to have someone hear what you’re going through and recommend some local resources. People who are suicidal are often reluctant to call and ask for help because they are afraid that they will be admitted into psychiatric care without their consent, and I think it’s important to address that reality here; if you report to the staff person that you are right at this very second in a medical crisis (i.e., you have already cut your wrists or taken pills), they will be forced to send an ambulance to pick you up. Barring this extreme, though, you will be welcome to spill your feels and concerns with the assumption that they will be placing the power to get help in your hands by recommending services to you in your area. Feeling phone shy? They also offer a “crisis chat” feature on their website where you can instant message with someone, though you may have to wait slightly longer for someone to become available.

If you have good health insurance, you will have many mental health care providers available to you.

            When you have access to adequate health insurance, your struggle with finding mental health services will hopefully be limited to emotional difficulties with reaching out for help, rather than logistical ones with affording care. I recommend the Psychology Today therapist finder tool, as it allows you to narrow down your search results based on your type of insurance, your location, and other personal preferences such as the therapists’ experience with your age group, gender, sexuality, and diagnosis. You are then able to email or call the therapists you are interested in and set up an appointment if they seem like a good fit.

If you are in college or at a job with any kind of benefits, research whether your institution offers free counseling.

            Many universities offer counseling services to their students, and they are often free or included in tuition. Some universities can afford to offer these services because they utilize counselors who have not yet received their Master’s degree or PhD, meaning that they are far less experienced than an accredited therapist. However, these counselors have extensive training and a licensed advisor who they report to, and if your mental illness is too serious for them to accommodate they will be able to assist you in finding a higher level of care in the community. Similarly, many employers offer counseling as part of their benefits package, so it’s worth the effort to see if you have services built into your job.

If you belong to a special population (i.e., a domestic violence survivor, a veteran, an LGBTQ individual) seek out services from organizations specific to those groups.

            There are many national organizations that provide mental health support to the demographics that they serve. A few examples include the National Center on Domestic Violence, the Wounded Warrior Project, and the PRIDE Institute, and many other resources can be found simply by googling “mental health services for…” and then adding the special population you identify with. With so many of our federally-funded services facing elimination, we will hopefully see an increase in donations to national organizations like these, meaning that anyone who is marginalized and feeling the weight of political oppression will be able to find some sort of access to service.

If you have none of the above, you may be referred to free or very reduced services at a community health center by your doctor. Ask the medical professionals or social service agents in your life about which agencies to look up in your area, and with any luck they will help you hunt down affordable care. Until then, take care of yourselves, resist the oppressors, and join forces with your community so we can restore the quality of care that we all deserve.