Many people who struggle with stress, mental illness or sub-optimal mental health lack the time and finances to engage in weekly therapy or ongoing medication management. Other individuals may be interested in trying alternatives prior to starting medications but lack knowledge of available resources. Even those with the best medical insurance, and the good fortune of unlimited finances can find it difficult to access quality mental health treatment when it is needed the most.
I have several easily accessible and low- or no-cost recommendations that can help in all of these situations. Whether you have a personality disorder or mood disorder (which were the topics of my previous post), or another mental illness, there is help readily available. These resources can also be beneficial if you have a friend or family member with mental illness and you want to educate or find support for yourself.
1) Self-Help Books
There are many great books that can serve as a resource for a wide range of mental health diagnoses. Sometimes my patients recommend books that I add to my library. This was the case with "I Hate You -- Don't Leave Me: Understanding the Borderline Personality." This book is well reviewed and is available on Amazon for less than $10. While this book is aimed specifically for borderline personality disorder, there are scores of others for those suffering from depression to bipolar disorder to schizophrenia. You may be able to get free copies at your local library. You can also speak with your doctors for suggestions or search websites like Amazon for highly-rated resources.
2) Support Groups
Going through life's stressors and the problems caused by mental illness can be especially difficult if you are doing it alone. I have written extensively about the importance of hope. Support groups provide an opportunity for you to learn and heal from other members' experiences and for them to learn from yours as well. You can search for support groups in your area. Look for groups that are aimed at your specific diagnosis. You can also speak with your psychiatrist, therapist or primary care doctor for more specific recommendations in your area.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is a great organization to know if you or a loved one is suffering from mental illness. NAMI is the nation's largest grassroots mental health organization. Each chapter is supported by volunteers who work in the community to raise awareness and provide support and education to those in need. They have a toll-free NAMI HelpLine (1-800-950-NAMI) and they respond to requests for referrals, information and support. NAMI also provides free educational programs, which can be accessed through their website: nami.org. These can be a great resource to learn more about your mental illness or learn how to better help someone whom you care about.
With these free and low-cost resources you do not have to be among those with the most means to get the help that you need. Books and self-help materials, support groups and NAMI can be great resources if you are unable to access a consultation with a psychiatrist or therapist. These resources may give you the tools you need to turn things around and improve your quality of life. However, these suggestions should NOT serve in the place of a formal consultation with your primary care doctor or a psychiatrist. In a crisis, if you ever feel unsafe, you can always call 911 or go to the nearest emergency department.
Please share these resources and ideas with anyone you think would benefit. We are all in this together. Talking about mental illness and sharing resources are ways each of us can combat stigma.
You can read more of my thoughts on these resources here.
If you -- or someone you know -- need help, please call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. If you are outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of international resources.