How do I get Mental Health Assistance?

wiseGEEK Writer

Mental health assistance comes in many forms. There is online self-help and counseling, a variety of hotlines, and lots of community agencies. Other choices are available, including help from family physicians, crisis centers, mental hospitals, therapists and psychiatrists. Each form of assistance has benefits or might only be appropriate under certain circumstances.

Most crisis intervention centers operate a telephone hotline for people to call who are in distress.
Most crisis intervention centers operate a telephone hotline for people to call who are in distress.

One thing people should be aware of when they want to get mental health assistance is that they need it right away if they feel suicidal or feel like harming themselves. The best place to start is a suicide hotline or a local community crisis number. Phone numbers for the latter is typically available at the front of a phone book, and the former can be found online in minutes. If neither can be found, the next best bet is to contact emergency services.

When a crisis is not so immediate, people may have time to get mental health assistance. Persistent problems at home or work suggest working with a psychotherapist or counselor. Most communities have a number of local counselors, though some people prefer greater anonymity and use online or telephone counseling. The disadvantage to either of these methods is that communication is not total. Counselors can learn much from facial, body, and vocal expression that may be absent in text or telephone form.

Some people suspect they have serious mental illnesses, like depression, anxiety disorder, bipolar or schizophrenia. While having therapy to support a person with these conditions is vital, folks need to get mental health assistance of other types. People could start with a therapist and get a referral to a psychiatrist. They could also start with a family doctor and get a specialist referral. It’s perfectly okay to simply contact psychiatrists and arrange an appointment.

If a person is seriously ill, the best place to get mental health assistance may be a mental hospital. Appropriate medications can then be started and people can be observed for effects to determine if these are the best possible treatments. In leaving a mental hospital, patients are usually given the names of therapists or psychiatrists to call to maintain care.

Some people attempt to get mental health assistance online or with self-help books. These can only take most people so far, but they might be useful in identifying problems. For instance, its possible to take screening tests online for illnesses such as depression, and results could be used as an opening to discuss this issue with a doctor. Generally, online groups and other assistance should be considered as adjunct to local mental health assistance.

A better source for some people is community organizations dedicated to serving those with mental illness or impairment. Lots of communities have local offices tied to national groups that may be great resources for different mental health assistance programs in a community. When people are unsure where to start, finding community agencies with this goal can be highly useful.

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