Seeking care for a mental illness can be difficult, if you don’t know where to start. Feeling ashamed or embarrassed to admit you need help may also deter you from seeking treatment in the first place. But it’s important to remember, you are not alone – around 450 million people worldwide currently live with a mental health disorder.
Fortunately, there are several paths one can take toward getting help – and hopefully, feeling better.
Talk to your doctor if you’re feeling depressed
Life’s stressors, like losing a loved one, financial struggles or going through a divorce, can lead to feelings of sadness and loneliness. But if those feelings are persistent it may be something more, like depression — one of the most common mental health disorders in the world. Consider sharing how you’re feeling with your primary care provider (PCP) or a nurse practitioner, if you think you may have depression.
A thorough checkup will rule out any medical condition that may be causing or mimicking your depression symptoms. Once a medical condition is ruled out, depression is commonly diagnosed with a questionnaire that helps to identify the severity of your symptoms. Based on those responses and other factors like age, health history and personal preferences, your doctor will recommend a treatment plan.
Recommended treatments may range from:
- Reassurance and supportive counseling and instructions to call, if the depression gets worse
- “Watchful waiting” for a month or more, with the addition of medication or counseling if there’s no improvement
- A prescription for an antidepressant medication combined with counseling
Types of counseling
After talking with your PCP or nurse practitioner, they may have referred you to a mental health professional, also known as a psychotherapist. You may also look for one on your own. There are several different kinds of mental health professionals, all working to help you understand and cope with your feelings and behaviors.
- Psychologists are trained to evaluate, diagnose and treat mental health disorders by providing counseling and psychotherapy.
- Counselors, clinicians and therapists help you talk through your symptoms for a range of concerns from marriage to alcohol and drug abuse counseling.
- Clinical social workers are trained to assess your mental health and provide psychotherapy. In addition, they can work as an advocate for patients and their family by providing case management and hospital discharge planning.
- Online therapy (telepsychology) is provided by some therapists over the internet. This way, you can talk to a therapist from your computer or phone, in the privacy of your home. Ensure that the therapist you talk to is licensed in your state and complies with all privacy (HIPAA) laws.
- Psychiatrists have gone through medical school with additional training in the field of psychiatry. Because they are licensed physicians, they are able to prescribe medications, like antidepressants, but they can also provide psychotherapy. Your PCP might refer you to a psychiatrist because of this specialized expertise.
If you choose to work with a mental health professional who cannot prescribe medication, they may work with another provider, your PCP or a nurse practitioner who can prescribe.
How to find counseling
- Search your in-network provider database. If you’re a UnitedHealthcare member, you can find that here.
- Ask your PCP or another health provider
- Contact a local university’s psychology department
- Call a community mental health clinic
- Contact your Employee Assistance Program or other help lines to which you have access through your employee benefits
- Visit online resources such as the American Psychological Association or the American Psychiatric Association
- Ask family or friends for a referral
- On-demand emotional support is also available to you through Sanvello, a free mobile app that may help you cope with stress, anxiety and depression during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Or, you can always call 1-866-527-3953 with any mental health questions or concerns.