Millions of people struggle with mental illness every day. If you’re one of those people, or you know someone who is, then you know the devastating impact mental illness can have on a person’s life.
Your mental health can affect every component of your life, from your finances to your physical health. As Dr. Brock Chisholm, the first Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), stated, “Without mental health, there can be no true physical health.”
With advances in technology and treatment available at the stroke of a key, there are treatment options available to you even if you can’t afford therapy.
Mental Health Statistics
Mental illness has always been a reality, but until recently, it was often something to hide away and never discuss. Fortunately, some of our most beloved athletes and celebrities are mental health advocates and have shared their stories of mental illness and the challenges they have faced because of it.
If you’re someone who struggles with mental illness, you are not alone. In fact:
20 percent or 47.6 million U.S. adults experienced a mental health disorder in 2018.
16.5 percent of youth (7.7 million) in the U.S. experienced a mental health disorder in 2016.
In 2018, 4.6 percent of Americans experienced a serious mental health disorder.
In 2018, 9.2 percent of adults in the United States experienced both a mental health and a substance abuse disorder.
Unfortunately, statistics show that it takes people 11 years on average to get treatment after their symptoms begin. Treatment can take many forms, and each treatment plan is developed based on your specific needs. Medication, education, support groups, and therapy are common treatment options. Therapy is a common and effective option as well, but what should you do if you can’t afford therapy?
Choosing a number of different treatment options to help treat your mental illness is the key to creating an effective treatment plan. Some people may only require medication; others may require a combination of therapy, medication, alternative treatments, and social supports. Both psychotherapy and talk therapy have been shown to improve treatment outcomes for many mental health disorders. It’s not, however, the only option.
Talk Therapy Options
If therapy is something you would like to try but cannot afford, you may want to consider online counseling. Technology today has made accessing therapeutic services easier than ever. There are many different platforms out there to choose from, many of which offer a free one- to two-week trial. Many of them also give a percentage off (generally around 20 percent) your first month.
If you have health benefits that don’t include behavioral health services, you may want to see if your company has an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). EAPs can be a valuable asset for you and may be able to provide free or extremely reduced psychotherapy. Generally, EAPs offer a limited number of sessions, so be sure to get all the information before you get started.
Another option is to contact your local Community Mental Health (CMH) agency. CMH is a government-funded program that provides a variety of mental health services, including outpatient therapy, support groups, and case management. They employ a variety of mental health professionals, such as psychiatrists, counselors, mental health nurse practitioners, and peer support specialists. CMH agencies may be able to provide you with services for free or for a small fee. They may also be able to refer you to a case manager who can help you apply for health benefits.
Alternative Treatment Options for Mental Health Disorders
Unfortunately, therapy may not be an option for everyone. Maybe your health benefits don’t cover behavioral/mental health services. Maybe you don’t have insurance or can’t afford the out-of-pocket costs. Whatever the reason, there are other effective options available to you. Therapy can come in many forms, and research is steadily proving that there are a variety of things you can do and skills you can practice to help improve your mental health symptoms.
If you suffer from anxiety-related disorders like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), studies show that spending time with pets may help reduce your levels of anxiety and PTSD-related symptoms. While researchers are still trying to pinpoint exactly why that is, one theory is that animals provide a nonjudgmental source of support. Their furry exteriors may also provide comfort when touched.
Aromatherapy has made its mark on mainstream society and has been used to treat various ailments, from skin problems to psychological issues. Essential oils are all the rave today—and for good reason. Research suggests that inhaling various essential oils can have a positive impact on mood and mental health. Studies show that lavender, for example, can improve sleep hygiene and promote restful sleep. Difficulty falling and staying asleep is a symptom of both anxiety and depression. Aromatherapy massage with lemon essential oils has been shown to significantly reduce depression symptoms.
Additional Behaviors and Strategies to Improve Mental Health
There are behaviors or skills you can apply on a regular basis that can help improve your overall mood and mental health. When these skills are applied regularly, they can actually make you less vulnerable to negative emotions and negative moods. These are called emotional regulation skills, and they come from the therapeutic approach created by Marsha Linehan called dialectical behavior therapy (DBT).
DBT has been studied and proven effective for many different types of mental health disorders, including PTSD and other anxiety disorders, depression, borderline personality disorder, substance use, self-esteem issues, and many others.
Below are some emotional regulation skills you can incorporate on a regular basis:
Taking medication for physical and mental health issues as prescribed
Exercising regularly (try a HIIT workout!)
Eating foods that are rich in nutrients and limiting processed foods and foods that are high in sugar
Maintaining a healthy sleep regime and sleep hygiene
Avoiding mood-altering drugs and limiting alcohol consumption
Additional skills and behaviors you can use to improve mood and mental health include:
Creating playlists of music that evoke specific emotions such as calm and happiness
Watching short YouTube videos or clips of things that make you laugh
Doing something nice for someone without them asking
Incorporating plants and other greenery into your environment
Getting outside and experiencing nature as much as possible
Journaling your thoughts and emotions as they come, without judgment
Meditating every day (research has confirmed the benefits of meditation on mental health)
Talking to a trusted loved one about what you are experiencing to help you feel less alone
Treating Mental Illness Effectively
If you’re struggling with what to do when you can’t afford therapy and you’re experiencing a mental health issue, remember that there are many different ways to treat mental illness. Lifestyle changes and skillful behaviors can be very effective in reducing the symptoms of mental health disorders and improving your overall mood.
If you don’t know where to begin, talk to your doctor about medication and alternative treatment options.