Getting access to mental health resources can be a struggle when you don’t know what your options are or where to find them. Affordability can also be a problem and results in many people choosing to forego treatment in favor of paying for their basic needs. However, there are a lot of free or inexpensive options out there, some available to those on low incomes and others available to anyone.
During my early twenties I was struggling to find the support I needed during my struggles battling depression and anxiety. At that time I was on medical insurance that did not cover any mental health treatment because it was considered a preexisting condition. That meant that sometimes I had to get creative in finding options, such as a psychiatrist, medications, therapists, and support that were affordable on the small income I was making at the time.
It did then and still does take a little research to find these options, so here are some of the resources available in the United States that I have personally used or discovered over the years since taking charge of my mental health:
These are all confidential and secure options to call, message, or text with a trained volunteer, whether you are in a crisis or simply want to talk and receive access to resources.
Crisis Text Line– If you would be more comfortable starting with simply texting someone, rather then speaking to them, this is a great resource. They offer 24/7 support for any type of crisis you may be going through in your life. The volunteers staffing the text lines aren’t licensed counselors, they are people like you that have gone through crisis counseling training. To get started, just text START to 741-741.
Hope Line– Would you rather chat with a trained volunteer online or get access to an ongoing email mentor? This 24/7 faith based chat line’s volunteers can help you sort out what’s going on in your life and direct you towards resources and organizations that offer more long term solutions. Hope Line is also available as an app.
2-1-1– Simply dial 211 to reach someone who will connect you with resources in your area, such as support groups, counseling, and psychiatric assessments. 211 (run through local organizations such as United Way) can also help you find assistance and services that may be available to you related to food, employment, healthcare, substance abuse, and more.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline– Are you experiencing suicidal thoughts or are scared that you may harm yourself? Call or open a chat with a Suicide Prevention Lifeline volunteer, who are available 24/7 to talk through your feelings, help you create a safety plan, and access emergency services if necessary. This line is also for anyone that is experiencing depression or any type of crisis.
NAMI Helpline– The NAMI helpline is not a crisis line, but staff can answer your questions about all things mental health, including symptoms, treatment options, and local services. This is also a great place to call if you are a friend or family member of someone suffering from mental illness and need access to resources to help them. Call 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) Monday through Friday, 10 am–6 pm, EST.
**Note: If you or someone you know is in danger (or is a danger to others) or needs medical treatment, call 911.**
These two great national organizations do a lot of work to raise awareness of mental illness and offer services (most free of charge) to individuals suffering from mental illness and their families. They both offer the opportunity to attend educational workshops or courses and experience regular peer support from those also suffering from mental illness.
NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness)– This national organization also has state organizations and affiliates that can help you access mental health resources in your local area. Search for your local NAMI here. Their offerings include:
- Free Peer-to-Peer 10-week course for those suffering with mental illness to obtain support, create an individualized plan for symptom management, and learn more about mental health and how to advocate for themselves. They also offer courses for friends and family members looking to support someone struggling with mental illness.
- NAMI Connection, a free biweekly or weekly support group led by trained facilitators that also suffer from mental illness.
Mental Health America– Also has affiliates across the United States, which can be found here. Unlike NAMI, where the same national programs are offered across the country, MHA’s support services vary by local organization. They do, however, have a online support group and discussion community open to those across the US. Examples of programming available, most of which are free of charge, include:
- Support groups and educational courses for family and friends of those with mental illnesses
- Peer support groups for those suffering from mental illness, including ones specifically for depression, anxiety, etc.
- Resource centers that provide support groups, workshops, and information about mental health diagnosis’ and obtaining access to treatment. Many also offer social activities and access to computers.
My biggest struggle when I was single was finding affordable options for therapy. Since my health insurance didn’t cover mental health treatment, I chose an organization that offered sliding scale fees. Although Obamacare has resulted in insurances not being able to deny coverage for preexisting conditions and most insurance plans now cover mental health treatment, some therapists and even psychiatrists don’t take health insurance. If cost is keeping you from accessing therapy, here are some suggestions:
Jewish Family Services- A local branch of JFS is where I received therapy for several years. They offer patients the option for a sliding scale fee based on income. Search for the location nearest to you. Other nonprofits and even private practices may also offer sliding scale fees as an option to patients.
Maven Clinic– I am excited to introduce you to where I am currently getting therapy: Maven Clinic. Cost can be a barrier to getting therapy, and so can time. Often therapists don’t have convenient time slots available, such as nights and weekends. And if you are in crisis, the last thing that you want to do is wait days or even weeks to go through a traditional intake process. Maven Clinic offers the services of therapists over video at a time that is convenient for you, perhaps even on your lunch break.
Your School- If you are a student, take advantage of the services of your guidance counselor or college counseling center. Most schools and colleges have these free services available to meet the needs of their students, both academic (through advisement and tutoring) and emotional with the services of counselors, psychologists, and social workers.
Your Church- Does your church have a licensed counselor on staff, a counseling center, or a relationship with a Christian counseling center in the area? Often church members or regular attenders can see a staff member for free or set up therapy sessions for a reduced fee.
Remember that you can be your own advocate. Even if a reduced fee is not traditionally given, it never hurts to explain your situation and ask if a discount is possible. In the past I have gotten a reduced fee for both my psychiatrist and therapy by doing just that. I also took a list of generic medications that were part of the reduced fee program at my local pharmacy with me to my initial appointments so we could try medications that I actually could afford.