The number of people with symptoms of anxiety or depression has increased significantly since August of 2020. Even before that increase, anxiety and depression were already the most commonly diagnosed mental health illnesses in the United States and Canada. One in five U.S adults will experience a mental illness each year.
Fortunately, there’s also been increased awareness and acknowledgement that mental health is part of our overall health and that it needs to be taken seriously. Getting the right support is the first step in addressing anxiety, depression or any other mental health illness. One of the first steps you can take is to seek assistance from your primary care doctor or a mental health professional such as a licensed clinical social worker, psychologist or psychiatrist.
Where to Begin
For LIUNA members and their covered family members, start with the benefits available through your LIUNA health and welfare fund. If health benefits are administered through another entity, such as a healthcare exchange or Medicare, start there instead.
Two key questions to ask your benefits provider before starting your search for a mental health professional include:
- Is there a network of providers you need to choose from?
- Are there limits to the number of sessions covered by your insurance?
July is National Minority Mental Health Month. Its purpose is to shed light on the multitude of mental health experiences within communities of color, including Black and Indigenous people, and others who face inequities due to systemic barriers and historical adversity.
Many people feel stigma and shame reaching out for assistance. That is often compounded in communities of color. No one should be made to feel bad for reaching out for assistance. Instead, seeking assistance should be applauded. The LHSFNA continues to work to erase the stigma surrounding mental health issues both on the job and at home.
What to Ask a Mental Health Professional
When you call to schedule an appointment with a mental health provider, we recommend starting with the following questions:
- Are you taking new clients?
- How long is the wait for an appointment?
- Do you take my insurance?
- Do you address the kinds of issues I am struggling with?
- What are your hours?
- Are you a licensed therapist? Each state is responsible for making sure therapists are qualified to provide services. Only those with proper training receive a license.
Just as it’s important to find a primary care doctor you’ll feel comfortable with, certain factors may also matter to you when choosing a mental health professional. Ask yourself whether the therapist’s gender, race, age or spirituality matter to you. Some people find that having a mental health professional they can relate to makes it easier to talk about certain topics or emotionally charged issues. This can be especially true if gender, race, spirituality or other identifying characteristics are a central part of the reason for seeking therapy.
Benefits of Therapy
Regardless of what you are struggling with, there are many benefits to seeing a therapist, including:
- Developing coping strategies to manage stress
- Improving your relationships
- Improving communication skills
- Learning how to make healthier choices
- Getting better sleep
Trying to go it alone can sometimes make us feel worse, especially if we resort to unhealthy coping behaviors such as alcohol, drugs, overeating, sleeping too much or shutting out those who care about us. By teaching healthy ways to cope, therapy can improve your quality of life.
[Jamie Becker is the LHSFNA’s Director of Health Promotion.]