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How to Access Free or Low-Cost Mental Health Services

According to recent Center for Disease Control (CDC) studies, one in five Americans suffer from a mental illness every year. In the last few years, rates of mental illness have increased globally due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, many are hesitant about getting care thanks to the social stigma associated with seeing a mental health professional. 

It’s important to know that untreated mental illness can lead to higher medical expenses, lower performance at school and work, fewer employment opportunities, and many more challenging effects. 

Fortunately, there are free or low-cost support options for your mental health. If you or someone you know is suffering from challenging mental health issues, don’t hesitate to check out one of these resources. You won’t regret getting the help needed at a critical time. 

Free or Low-Cost Mental Health Treatment Options

Psychotherapy is usually a mid to long-term commitment and can be costly. Fortunately, there are low-cost or even free services available. Below is a list of affordable mental health care options.

Local social services

Student health centers or federally-qualified health centers may provide free or low-cost mental health services. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has a helpful search engine for these services. 

Universities

University hospitals often have programs that provide patients with access to interns and residents that charge on a sliding scale. This is often much cheaper than private mental health care providers. We recommend contacting your local hospitals to ask if they offer any of these programs.

Local mental health centers and clinics

A wide variety of associations and organizations focus on providing affordable mental health services. MentalHealth.gov has a list of such organizations that you can check to find the best option for you.

Support Groups

Mental health is typically treated with personal therapy and medication. That said, Support groups, are another helpful option. They’re places where people who are going through similar situations meet to share their experiences. These stories help people communicate and reduce isolation and loneliness. 

Mental health problems can make people feel alone and isolated but support groups help remind people that there are others who are facing similar situations and can help us get better. These groups are usually open to anyone, but often focus on specific topics such as depression, addictions, divorce, and grief. Do some research to find the group that is right for you.

Mental Health Financial Assistance

In addition to programs and institutions that offer free or low-cost mental health services, there are options for financial assistance that might make your mental health care more affordable. Below are the most common:

Employee assistance programs

Studies have shown that the mental health of employees directly influences their productivity. This is why many companies provide financial support to encourage good mental health. We recommend contacting your employer's human resources department to ask if this benefit is available to you.

Low-cost or free independent psychologists

A lot of psychological practices base their fees on a sliding scale. This is an income-based way of calculating the cost of therapy. Nonprofit clinics and therapists with private practices sometimes use this method to make therapy accessible to people who can’t afford their standard fees. In return, they get the satisfaction of supporting those most in need.

Medicaid

All Medicaid plans are required by law to provide access to mental health services. However, these programs vary from state to state, so we recommend reviewing your plan to determine what services are covered. Some services that may be included are: counseling, therapy, medication management, social work services, peer assistance, and substance abuse treatment.

Children's Health Insurance Program

The Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) offers mental health services for children from families whose income is less than 200% of the national poverty line ($3,067 per month for a family of four). If any of your minor children require psychiatric care, we recommend investigating to find out if this option is available.

Toll-Free Helplines

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Face-to-face counseling isn’t the only option  for treating mental health problems. Telephone counseling sessions have been proven to be useful tools in treating some mental health conditions. In general, free phone counseling services treat short-term cases, but can be an excellent alternative for people in crisis situations. The following are the most relevant:

National Suicide Prevention Network

If you or a loved one is facing a psychological crisis requiring urgent help, such as a suicide attempt, suicidal ideation, or any other similar situation, local crisis centers affiliated with the Suicide Prevention Lifeline may be your best option. These centers not only provide help over the phone; in some cases, they may even do home visits. 

To use these services, call 1-888-628-9454 and you’ll be connected to the center closest to your location. For more information about these centers and their functions, please visit their website.

Crisis Text Message Line

Founded in 1909 by Clifford W. Beers, Mental Health America (MHA) is a community-based nonprofit organization dedicated to addressing the needs of people living with mental illness and promoting overall mental health. This association provides psychological support services via text messaging (SMS). This program is free to use by texting "MHA" to 741741.

Veterans Crisis Line

The Veterans Crisis Line is a Federal Government program that provides psychological support for current and former members of the U.S. military. If you’re a veteran or know a veteran and are concerned about your or their mental health, this line is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. You can contact them by:

  • Calling 1-800-273-8255 
  • Sending a text message to 838255
  • Using the online chat here 
  • For the deaf and hard of hearing, call 1-800-799-4889

Disaster Distress Helpline

This hotline is for people who need psychological support because they have experienced a natural or human-caused disaster. The Disaster Distress Helpline is available 24/7 at 1-800-985-5990.

Mental Health Apps

In addition to in-person therapies and helplines, there are different mobile apps that can help you. The main advantage of these apps is that you can take care of your mental health from anywhere, at any time. Some popular options are:

Calm

Calm offers meditation exercises that can help you feel more relaxed and improve your mental health. This popular meditation app costs $69.99 per year or $14.99 per month, but it has a seven-day free trial that you can use to see if it works for you.

Mindshift CBT

Created by Anxiety Canada, one of Canada's leading non-profit mental health care associations, Mindshift CBT is a free app that guides you through stress and anxiety reduction exercises based on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). This type of therapy has proven to be effective in numerous scientific studies, so Mindshift CBT can be an excellent option to control these negative emotions. 

Your Health Comes First!

We hope this information helps you find mental health services that fit your financial needs. Remember that your mental health is just as important as your physical health. Taking care of it is essential to your overall well-being. 

If you have any questions about this topic or if you’d like more information about the services above, click the “chat” button at the top of this page to contact our expert team. 

Speaking of prioritizing your health, check out our PODERsalud program. Your subscription will give you access to unlimited telemedicine visits for only $16.95 per month and discounts on prescription drugs, dental, and vision services.