“Theories that diseases are caused by mental states and can be cured by will power are always an index of how much is not understood about a disease.” — Susan Sontag
Mental health professionals across the United States have seen a significant increase in patients struggling with post-election anxiety. With imminent changes to the Supreme Court, healthcare, reproductive justice, civil rights, immigration policy, and environmental legislation, no wonder Americans are feeling the effects on their mental health. Nearly one in five American adults will deal with a mental health issue in a given year. Stigma and lack of access to healthcare act as treatment barriers, especially effecting already vulnerable communities, including people of color, women, LGBTQ folks, low income folks, homeless folks, etc. Over half of incarcerated people have mental health issues, and people with mental health issues are 4.5 times more likely to be arrested. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is currently required to cover mental health and drug and alcohol services, but the president’s attempt to repeal and replace the ACA included a plan to reconsider many diagnoses as pre-existing conditions, disqualifying those afflicted from coverage. This attack on mental healthcare only confirms that the current administration will not forward any significant mental health initiatives, if not try to repeal more benefits. While self care is incredibly important in maintaining mental and emotional wellness, it’s not enough for most mental health issues. If you are concerned about yourself or a friend, start by educating yourself and getting help.
The most urgent mental health issue you can deal with is when you or a friend is in crisis. A mental health crisis is a situation in which a person is exhibiting extreme emotional disturbance or behavioral distress and is unable to cope in a functional, safe way. Sometimes these situations are non-life threatening, and sometimes a person is considering harming themselves or others. The Icarus Project offers a crisis toolkit, including guidance on creating a psychiatric advance directive. These directives offer care instructions for a person going through a crisis, allowing them to specify what they do and do not want from hospitalization and to designate a person they trust, or healthcare proxy, to implement their provisions regarding treatment, medication, and visitors. Each state regulates advance directives differently, with varying degrees of strength. In the case of a mental health crisis, there are a number of hotlines to help with specific issues, including the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, Lifeline Crisis Chat, Crisis Text Line, the National Sexual Assault Hotline, and the Domestic Violence Hotline. The Trevor Project provides a hotline for LGBTQ youth ages 13-24 and Trans Lifeline is a crisis line staffed by trans folks, for trans folks. To help identify, understand, and respond to a mental health crisis, take a mental health first aid course, and encourage your workplace or community group to do the same.
Finding therapy that is either covered by insurance or affordable can be unnecessarily difficult, but finding someone to talk to can be incredibly helpful and is often necessary in acquiring a diagnosis or medication. Federally Qualified Health Centers offer services regardless of health insurance status, and The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration allows you to search for providers who offer services on a sliding scale. RAD Remedy allows trans, gender non-conforming, intersex, and queer folks to search for providers, with a sliding scale option as well. Clinical and counseling programs at colleges often offer sessions with counselors-in-training for a cheaper rate. Online or mobile counseling such as BetterHelp and Talkspace are also cheaper options than traditional in-person therapy. To learn more about accessing affordable medication, check out my post on healthcare.