Mental health resources may be limited or vast, depending upon a community and the way it structures funding for them. Even with limits, there are many different ways in which people access help for mental health or related issues like substance abuse. Some of these are free and others require some form of payment or insurance coverage.
Though people might not think of it at first, one of the primary mental health resources is a family doctor or primary care physician. Physicians are trained to screen for many mental illness and if they feel uncomfortable making a diagnosis, they can make a referral to someone better equipped to determine specific problems, such as a therapist and/or a psychiatrist. Patients who do get a diagnosis of a serious mental illness like depression from their family doctor should consider follow-up with a psychiatrist to confirm that medication choices are appropriate and diagnosis is accurate.
The host of therapists who live and work in a community are a large part of the mental health resources in a community. Whether they are called licensed professional counselors, psychologists, licensed clinical social workers, or marriage and family therapists, many of these professionals are capable of suggesting diagnosis of mental illness and helping clients find the best additional resources required. Therapists can also work with clients on mental health issues that are separate from mental illness, and they might provide counseling for marital troubles, family dysfunction, or for a variety of other concerns that create stress or worry.
When mental illness is suspected, psychiatrists become excellent mental health resources. They can diagnose, suggest appropriate medication and work with patients over time to adjust or change medication as required. Some psychiatrists perform dual roles as therapists, or they work with clients who have therapists.
Psychotherapists, doctors and psychiatrists may work in lots of different places and some may be employed in community-run clinics that serve populations who cannot afford help in most other ways. Those who are unable to pay for services should look for community or nonprofit clinics that might be able to help. Additionally, many communities have specific agencies or branches of them that provide access to services or information about services for those affected by mental illness. In the United States, for example, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has many local chapters that could help people find support.
Other local or regional groups may provide mental health resources. Just about every community has access to a suicide hotline and to hotlines to report things like child abuse. Many communities also have a psychiatric emergency number, and may have services to help those who are a danger to themselves. Most cities have mental hospitals, but when they don't, people can get assistance with suicidal feelings at their local emergency room.
Substance abuse assistance is also considered to be part of mental health resources. If the problem is not immediate, people might again begin with a primary doctor or therapist. On the other hand, an immediate problem can be handled at a standard or drug treatment hospital, or people might be able get the support they need to avoid drinking or using drugs through organizations such as Alcoholics Anonymous. Detox can be physically difficult and dangerous, and should be handled with the assistance of their doctor or through a local hospital.
There are other less traditional mental health resources. A number of websites exist where people can read about mental illness, converse with others, and participate in a variety of activities. It’s important to be aware that Internet sites aren’t always accurate, and chatting with average people on a site is not necessarily the best source of information. More accurate are good books written on mental illness, but both books and websites should be viewed as resources to be used in addition to things like therapy and medical care.