I want to know what I should do if I can’t afford help. I am living at home and I can’t control my emotions. I have been breaking down for about 3 years now. I don’t know what to do. I have been dealing with the fact of not having money my whole life. I have never really known my parents and I’ve been moving from home to home since I was 7. Two years ago I tried to kill myself and was put in the hospital. I know that I have been depressed for awhile now and I need to get diagnosed. What should I do?
A. When you were being discharged from the hospital the staff should have created a comprehensive outpatient plan outlining followup treatment, even if you did not have health insurance. That may or may not have happened in your case but it should have. I am sorry if it didn’t.
Not having private health insurance or money to pay for mental health care can be very challenging but there are ways to access treatment. I have discussed these options in some of my other responses but below I have compiled a list of where to find free or low-cost mental health treatment resources. If readers of this column have other suggestions please e-mail me here. I will pass that information on to other readers.
- Community Mental Health Center (CHMC). Local community mental health centers (CMHCs) are an affordable option for low-cost counseling services. CMHCs may charge a sliding-scale fee, which essentially means that they negotiate a payment plan based on what the client can afford. They typically offer services such as individual therapy, group therapy, case management and intensive case manager, psychiatric evaluations, prescribing psychiatric medication, and depending on the size of the agency, foster care arrangements, residential treatment placement and other related services.
- Local Health Department. Calling the local health department can be a great way to inquire about what low-cost or free mental health services are available in your community. Call and explain your situation. They should be able to direct you to the appropriate resources if they are available.
- United States Department of Health and Human Services National Mental Health Information. Their telephone number is 1-800-789-2647. They may be able to direct you to free or low-cost mental health counseling in your community.
- The National Alliance For Mental Illness (NAMI). Many of the members of NAMI are seasoned veterans when it comes to navigating the mental health system. One of their main goals is to help people gain access to mental health services. Often their website or local community members can provide guidance on where to find mental health treatment. Most communities throughout the United States have a local chapter of NAMI. NAMI offers support groups for individuals dealing with various types of mental health or family issues. All of their support groups are free of charge.
- School Guidance Counselors. If you are still a student, then one of the best places to ask for help is the school guidance counselor. The guidance counselor may be able to offer you immediate assistance. If additional help is required, they can provide a referral or speak to your parents on your behalf about accessing psychiatric services.
- College Counseling Centers. Colleges and universities often can provide short-term counseling for their students, free of charge. University counseling centers are staffed with psychologists, social workers and psychiatrists. Many provide psychiatric evaluations and medication management services. If longer-term services are needed, the counseling center staff help students find services in the community.
- University Research Centers. Many universities conduct research about psychiatric treatments and medications. Participants of research studies may have access to cutting-edge and novel treatments for mental health disorders. Being part of a research study can help someone access treatment when they may not otherwise receive any. There is no charge for being in a research study. In fact, many research studies compensate participants.
Thanks to a reader, I am reminded of how the clergy can be a (free) source of mental health and spiritual guidance.
Those are some of the ways that you may be able to access treatment with a limited budget or in the absence of health insurance. If you feel that you may harm yourself, then go to the emergency room immediately. Hospitals will treat individuals without health insurance in an emergency situation. I hope you are able to get the help that you need. Please take care.
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 24 May 2011
Randle, K. (2011). No Money To Pay For Help. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 12, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2011/05/24/no-money-to-pay-for-help/