When you need to seek out mental health services, it can be difficult to know where to start. It’s not like seeking other types of treatments, where you go to see an MD who will provide you with care. With mental health services, you could find yourself waiting longer than necessary because there are so few providers and the waitlist is just so long. This is why it’s important to know all of your options when you need help.
These typically include group or individual therapy. Many are covered by insurance, but it depends on your policy. There are many professionals that offer mental health care in outpatient clinics, including psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, counselors, and therapists. Outpatient care is helpful for those who are stable. The majority of people with mental illness need outpatient care, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).
Private mental health facilities
These typically offer various levels of care and treatments for those with mental illness. People can stay in a private facility for short-term and long-term care and treatment. People might choose to enter a residential setting in a private program if they or their family don’t have insurance or find that public programs aren’t able to meet their needs.
A Christian inpatient mental health facility is where individuals live in a supervised setting while receiving treatment for their mental illness. Residential programs typically last three to six months. Inpatient treatment happens in a hospital and is typically short-term, but it’s not unheard of for people to spend several weeks or months in an inpatient facility. There are both private and public residential programs, as well as mental wards at hospitals.
Mental wards in hospitals
These are psychiatric units in hospitals where people who are experiencing severe mental illness might be treated before they can be released. People might also voluntarily seek treatment at a mental ward; however, the patient must have the capacity to make this decision and not be deemed dangerous to self or others.
How to decide where to receive mental health treatment
There are many options for treatment, depending on your needs. If you or a loved one is in an emergency situation, seek help at the nearest hospital. Most likely, you will be able to see a psychiatrist right away.
If not, visit NAMI for more information about mental health services in your area. Also, consider reaching out to your insurance company to find out what mental health facilities and professionals they cover. Many types of outpatient care are covered by most plans, but if you need a residential or inpatient program, you’ll want to check with your insurer before committing.
Remember that not all treatment settings offer the same level of care. Some might have long waitlists and only offer outpatient care, and others might focus on daily activities like cooking and cleaning. You’ll want to make sure you know what services each setting has before choosing one for yourself or a loved one.
How To Deal With Waitlists
If there is a long waitlist for treatment programs, ask hospitals if they offer crisis triage services, which can be helpful if you are in crisis. A psychiatrist might also be available to prescribe medication for someone with an urgent care need.
Be sure to communicate your or your loved one’s needs when choosing a program. If you know there is a specific type of treatment that is best suited for your situation, don’t settle for a program that isn’t a good fit.
How to make the most of the treatment you get
Be patient with yourself and your doctor. Recovery from mental illness is a process, not an event. Don’t expect instant results or overnight relief from any type of treatment program or medication.
Make sure you communicate with both your doctor and your treatment team to get answers to any questions.
Make sure that the program you choose is a good fit for you or your loved one. Find out what services it offers before committing, and discuss other options if you think the program might not be right for you.
How to handle side effects of medications associated with mental illness
Sudden and severe side effects
If you experience sudden and/or severe changes in your mood, thinking, appetite, energy level, or behavior after starting medication for mental illness, let the doctor who prescribed it know. You might need to switch to another drug or take a different dose. If you’re already at the highest possible dose, don’t increase it until you talk to the doctor.
Long-term side effects
Some medications might cause long-term side effects, such as weight gain or sexual dysfunction. Ask your doctor about what to do if this happens to you or someone under your care. Be honest about any side effects you notice so that the doctor can provide the best possible care.
How to help a loved one get treatment even if they don’t want it
Offer your support and love, but respect their wishes about getting treatment. If you try to take away their freedom of choice, they might feel trapped and coerced. Instead, offer other types of support during a crisis, like helping your loved one stay safe until symptoms stabilize.
Find out if there is an adult you can call to help during a crisis, like a friend or relative that can take care of your loved ones for a while. If they agree, offer to let them live with you or come over after work for support and encouragement.
Remember that treatment can take time and may not work perfectly right away. Try not to get discouraged if you don’t feel better the minute you start your medication or therapy. If you continue working with your doctor, stay patient and keep an open mind, there’s a good chance you’ll find something that works for you.