Even with insurance coverage and government programs that can help pay for mental health treatment, there is still a stigma in society that needs to be overcome. For me, it took years to get over the fear, shame, and guilt of my anxiety enough to even consider getting help. Even then, it took my husband asking ever so gently if I would consider seeing a therapist. I didn’t want to be seen as weak, or as someone who needed help, or wasn’t mentally up to the challenge of daily life. Somewhere along the road there was a shift away from all of that shame towards pride in taking back a little control for myself.
Seeking help for a mental illness isn’t weak - it’s a sign of strength.
Since I started talking about my anxiety and depression, I’ve been surprised at how many others are in the same boat. All of whom are struggling, and most talking with a mental health professional and/or receiving psychiatric treatment. Nearly all of them said they wouldn’t have shared that information if I hadn’t broached the topic first.
But that’s the thing - if we don’t talk about it, we go on thinking it’s not a problem, or it’s not happening to people we know, or it’s not okay to have a mental illness, or to seek help if we do. So many of us are suffering - and it’s okay and it’s completely normal. Think of it this way: if you had a broken arm you wouldn’t just go on pretending everything was okay and just live through the pain. You would go to the doctor, get a cast, and probably some pain medication. If you have a headache you take a pill, or rub on some essential oils, or make a special tea.
So why then, when we’re faced with a mental illness do we fail to seek treatment?
If more of us spoke up and shared our stories, the government would have to listen. Our elected officials work for us, not the other way around. If we want better coverage for mental health care we have to show them that our lives would be improved if they took action. The senators from, say, California can’t make any progress on proposing a bill about mental health grants or universal coverage if they can’t back up their claims with facts like, ”X amount of Californians are suffering from mental illness and they don’t seek treatment because it costs xyz, and we need to work to make it more affordable or free for everyone.” They can’t speak up if we don’t speak up.
While change at the government level can take time, there are options out there for affordable care for mental health conditions if you know where to look. Here are 5 ways you can go about lowering the costs for yourself and for the community around you.
1. Speak up and share your story.
Tell your friends, your congresspeople, your parents, your children. There is strength in numbers and getting things done at a state and federal level takes a lot of effort. Again, they can’t act unless they see a problem that needs to be fixed. Show them the problem
2. Call your insurance company and ask about your coverage.
Many insurances won’t specifically cover your chosen therapist because most are considered out of network, but they will allow you to submit a “SuperBill” for reimbursement. I end up paying just $20 for a $130 therapy session once I’m reimbursed! They must cover mental health screenings, so if you’re getting pushback make sure you stand up for yourself! Be firm but kind - the person on the phone for the insurance company does not make the rules. Keep that in mind, but don’t let their “no” get you down. You have rights, don’t forget it!
3. Talk to your HR representative.
A lot of large companies will cover a certain number of sessions with an approved therapist or physician, as well as cover any medications prescribed. These often come with a limit of how many sessions you have available, but it’s a step in the right direction. And often, just one session with a psychotherapist is enough to get you a prescription and on the right track. Initial sessions often run $600+, but follow-ups are much more affordable. Have your company pay for the first one, and then you can take care of the follow-ups.
4. Look into government funded programs.
It’s exhausting to do a lot of research to find a way to get the help you need without shoveling out hundreds, or thousands, of dollars. Mentalhealth.gov has great resources for finding care, tips for how to make sure your insurance company is covering what it’s supposed to cover, and special services for service members and veterans.
5. Start a meet-up in your community.
Holding space for someone going through something similar to yourself is an incredibly powerful tool for healing. While it doesn’t replace professional help, finding or creating a group to talk about your problems, challenges, celebrate wins, and share experiences can be its own kind of therapy. Start by inviting a few friends to a safe place (like your home) and when you feel comfortable, share it on a site like Meetup, or create a Facebook page. So much beautiful changes can happen when we realize we’re not alone.
Photos by: Emily Steffen