When you’re struggling with mental health issues, every little thing can feel like an epic uphill battle. Just making the decision to get some sort of help should be considered a victory on its own. Researching the best resources or picking up the phone to schedule that first appointment can feel impossible.
Reaching out to others can feel especially paralyzing when your mood and self-esteem are shot. Thankfully, it’s easier than ever to get the care you need without depleting your extremely limited social battery. Here are some resources to get you started, so you don’t have to do all the legwork on your own.
1. Online Prescription Resources
You may be struggling just to get out of bed, be around others, or organize your daily tasks. But your insurance company expects you to make phone call after phone call to find a psychiatrist to prescribe medication. That’s if you even have insurance — and if that insurance even offers coverage for mental health services.
It’s a broken system; one that isn’t designed to benefit the people who need it the most. And it could leave you paying hundreds of dollars and waiting months to get access to the care you need. Meanwhile, you’re expected to tough it out through work, school, childcare, and any other responsibilities.
Fortunately, recent innovations in online mental health medication are finally starting to turn things around. It’s now possible to get evaluated online, from the comfort and privacy of your home, by clicking a few buttons.
Online mental health resources can connect you with providers who can match you with the right medication for your needs. These options are much more affordable and quicker than traditional psychiatrist visits. They also mean that, when you’re not feeling up to talking, you don’t have to deal with cranky receptionists either.
2. Professional Counseling Services
While medication on its own can help in many cases, sometimes you just need someone to talk to. From social workers to psychologists to clergy members, it may help to speak to someone with professional counseling training. There are many ways to do this, in person or online.
If you’re a student, your school should be able to connect you with a counseling professional. For young adults in elementary through high school, your school may have a guidance counselor or other licensed professional in-house. College or university students usually have access to on-site counseling services, or a list of professionals the school refers to.
For everyone else, things get a bit more complicated — you may have to go through your insurance or search online. ZocDoc and Psychology Today both provide extensive lists of therapists that can be organized by specialty, location, and accepted insurance. Some workplaces have mental health resources for employees, and it could be worth asking a trusted HR representative.
In choosing a therapist, consider your specific needs and what type of experience and training your therapist should have. Different people and conditions respond best to different modalities, from cognitive behavioral therapy to psychoanalysis. Some people prefer a therapist who shares their gender, cultural background, or lived experience as an LGBTQ+ or BIPOC person.
3. Support Groups and Group Therapy
Maybe you’d like to talk to other people, but don’t want to feel “analyzed” by a professional. Or perhaps professional counseling is out of your budget or inaccessible for other reasons. Or maybe you just want to make friends with other people who are facing similar circumstances, like addiction or grief.
Group options run the gamut from structured group therapy environments to informal groups like grief support meetups. Group therapy is usually run by a clinician, may have a fee, and is aimed at treating mental health symptoms. Support groups tend to be free and peer-led, and participants typically rely on them to cope with specific life situations.
DBT groups, for example, are a type of organized group therapy. They employ a modality called Dialectical Behavior Therapy, which teaches participants specific skills for coping with emotions. DBT groups generally charge monthly, require an application or evaluation, and may have attendance requirements or homework assignments.
Grief, addiction, and other support groups may gather in a church or other semi-public meeting place. They’re often open to all or most people who wish to participate, and those people can come and go week-to-week. SAMHSA maintains an excellent list of links to groups for mental health support in a number of categories, particularly addiction.
4. Online Communities
If meeting in person isn’t an option, it might be worth considering an online option. While there are clinician-led group therapy programs that do meet virtually, the groups discussed here are more informal support groups. (For online group therapy, it’s best to check directly with a therapy practice and see what remote options they offer.)
Thedinnerparty.org is a great option for people in their 20s to 40s who’ve suffered the recent loss of a loved one. The Dinner Party caters to this specific demographic because they say it’s underserved by the grief community. Through this website, you can join a “virtual dinner” to meet remotely via video chat with other grieving people.
Sites like Facebook and Reddit offer an immense number of groups for every conceivable mental health issue and every demographic. Unfortunately, some of these groups can be prone to fighting, toxicity, or just plain bad advice. You’ll need to do some digging to find a well-moderated group with members you can trust not to harass you.
Finally, mental health apps like Wisdo and Therapeer use AI and other innovative technologies to connect users with online groups. You sign up for the app, choose relevant groups, and connect with other users for support — often anonymously. As with online forums, there’s no guarantee of quality control, so be mindful of what advice you take to heart.
If You Need Urgent Help
Sometimes, you can’t afford to wait weeks, days, or even hours to find the right professional, group, or medication. If you need help urgently, or have thoughts of suicide or self harm, call or text your local hotline immediately.
To reach SAMHSA’s free National Helpline in the US, call 1-800-662-HELP (4357). You can also call or text 988 to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
If you’re at serious risk for harm or injury, call 911 or local emergency services, or go to the emergency room. Never hesitate to ask for help if you need it — your safety isn’t a burden.