Reaching Out: Getting Help with Mental Illness
While it can be daunting, scary, and uncomfortable to confront the fact that you may be dealing with a mental illness, you can take comfort in knowing you are not alone and that you don’t have to navigate the path to wellness alone. Furthermore you can take comfort in knowing, there is a path to wellness; there is a way that you can feel better, and resume your normal daily activities again, without the constant fear of your mental illness getting in the way, or without feeling like your mental illness inhibits you from doing what you want to do.
The first part of this though is reaching out and getting help. Here at TherapyTribe we are committed to helping you be able to access the help you need. We have many skilled therapists throughout the world listed in our directory, as well as access to support groups and information on mental illness related topics, accessible via our therapy topics pages.
Help for mental illness comes in several forms, but asking for help is the first step. If you have arrived here because you are ready to get help with your mental illness, then you have come to the right place.
What Help Looks Like
While you may assume that help for a mental illness is dependent on a client-therapist interaction, whereby you have weekly meetings with a therapist and discuss how you are feeling, this is not always necessarily the case. Each case of mental illness is different and unique and it is important to recognize that help looks different for each one – and that you should never be ashamed for seeking the help you need.
In some cases, it is true that individuals benefit most from regular one-on-one sessions with a therapist. In these sessions, the client often needs someone who is willing and available to listen to them and express the empathy and compassion they need to help them through their period of distress. Situations such as these also often warrant the therapist interaction because frequently, it is helpful for the client to have the therapist there to shed new perspectives on the individuals’ circumstances, allowing them see a different view of what they are experiencing and why it may be happening.
In other cases, clients benefit more from hands-on activities, where they are physically able to actively engage in their own healing process, such as using mindset cards, or doing exposure therapy. Others still, do better in group therapy sessions, where they feel the benefit and healing comes from knowing they are not alone and in being able to compare their own situation to somebody else who can relate.
Help looks different for different people, based around different presenting symptoms of mental distress. Regardless however, seeking therapy is one of the best streams of help you can choose: you will receive support, professional guidance, and above all else, not have to face mental illness alone
Despite the understanding and awareness of how beneficial it can be to seek therapy, there are often several things which may be obstacles, or appear as obstacles in the way of helping you get the help you need:
- Cost of Therapy – Many people assume therapy is not an option because it is too expensive. In many cases however, therapy is covered by your insurance and there are likely options with your insurance provider to arrange for a mental health component of your plan. In addition, many therapist offer a sliding scale and can accommodate different needs of their clients.
- Time – Don’t let lack of time, or feeling like you don’t have any free time during the day act as something that stops you from contacting a therapist to help you. Many of the therapists offer online services, see clients in the evenings and on weekends, and in some cases, are even available to come to your house and fit in the appointment on your time.
- Finding a Therapist – We’ve made finding a therapist simple. Search by location and symptoms to find a list of qualified therapists to choose from. Read a short biography of each therapist, seeing their experience, training, specialization, treatment approach and practice details such as address and cost. Form here select your top 3-5 matches and reach out to them. From here you will be able to determine who you best connect with as well as who is most capable of meeting you therapeutic needs.
- Stigma – Do not let shame or stigma stop you from reaching out for help. There is no shame in asking for help that you need, the same as you would ask for help from a doctor or from a co-worker. Remember that your belief of shame around your mental illness, or the feeling that you are weak to ask for help is simply a perceived obstacle: you can get out of your own way, take responsibility for how you are feeling and what you need, and start down the path towards being your best self and living the life you know you want and deserve.
Developing a Support System
While seeking the help of a therapist is a critical step towards improving your mental health and overcoming your mental illness, much of your success is going to come from developing your own support system. When you reach out to a therapist, you should also reach out to a close friend, relative, or other person you trust to begin to develop a support network outside of therapy to help you through your mental illness. You need people who you can reach out to outside of your therapy sessions; people who you can feel comfortable talking to about your struggles or daily obstacles, someone who you are not ashamed to open up to and be honest with, and more than that, someone who you can ask to help you. Battling a mental illness means there may be some days when it is hard to get out of bed, hard to look after your kids, hard to show up at your job and work to your full capacity. While a therapist will give you strategies and techniques to help you work through these, it will take some time for you to be able to adopt them, and you will likely still have bad days. It is on these bad days that you need a support system, made up of people who you aren’t afraid to draw on and say, “today I need someone to come help me cook dinner,” or “today, I am feeling particularly ashamed of my body.” A good support system will nurture your soul, be empathic towards your feelings, but also push you through the hard days and work to help you get over the hump.
Part of a strong support system is a strong line of communication. It is important for you to select people to make up a support system that you feel you can communicate freely and honestly with. Take some time when you are developing your network of support to help these people understand what you are experiencing and going through, and what support looks like for you. For example, for some people support is having someone available to look after their kids when it is a particularly hard day, while for others support is simply having someone to lie on the couch with and watch movies, without having to talk, or answer questions. Knowing what support you need and how others can show up in this way to support you is an important part of your healing journey and an important component of getting help.
In addition to seeing a therapist and establishing a support network to use as a resource for your healing, it is important to understand what other resources are available to assist you on your journey to better health. As you seek to overcome your mental illness, consider using the following additional resources:
- Community Outreach – The increasing awareness around mental health, the importance of supporting individuals with mental illness and the need to develop support networks, means in several cities, communities are stepping up to be the support network for individuals affected by mental illness. This may involve community initiated support groups, held at the community center or library, events surrounding mental illness awareness, such as an open day or film screening, or fundraisers which benefit particular mental health related charities. Many communities are putting a big push on mental health education, having speakers and professionals in the field come to the community to present and educate on different types of mental illness and how one can best support affected individuals. Check out your local community news or event listings to see how you can make use of these valuable resources.
- Online Support Groups – With the accessibility of the Internet and social media, it is no surprise that online support groups are gaining popularity, and credibility within the mental health realm. Online support groups are valuable for anyone affected by mental illness, but especially for those who may not have a support network within their family or friends, or those who are unable to access therapy. Visit the tribe to find an online support group that may be beneficial to you and your particular circumstances.
- Support Meetings – Think of these as online support groups in real life! These are group sessions where individuals experiencing the same mental illness or the same selection of symptoms come together to support one another. Sometimes it may be to get together and share struggles and wins, sometimes to come together to share newfound coping mechanisms. Other times it is simply to have someone to listen to and to benefit from the shared experience and relate-ability of everyone going through the same thing.
- Workplace Services – Don’t forget to check with your employer to see what mental health services are available through your workplace. This information should be made available to you in your welcoming and hiring package, and often includes access to resources and professionals, or may even allow you to have financial coverage or compensation for seeking mental health services such as therapy.
- Books and Literature – Visit your local library or bookstore and ask for books, movies, or magazines pertinent to your particular mental illness, or simply to learn more about mental health in general. It can often feel better to arm yourself with knowledge allowing you to commit to taking an active role in learning everything you can to improve your health and well-being and to prosper on your journey to your best self.
Shifting your Mindset
Regardless of the work you do with your therapist, the community, and family support made available to you, it is important to remember the power of positive thinking and the importance of shifting your mindset. You are a valuable member of your community, family, workplace, and society. You have amazing skills, attributes, strengths, and traits, which you can offer to others and bring to yourself, and more than that, which others want and need. The world needs you and what you have to bring to it, and it needs you in whatever capacity you are able to show up. In the throes of mental illness it can be easy to forget these things, or be led to believe otherwise, and it is important to step back and remind yourself that you are worthy. Look in the mirror and tell yourself you are beautiful, walk down the street and remind yourself you are doing good things, show up at the store and tell yourself you are deserving. From this mindset, get the help you need and your improved health will follow.