Good mental health is fundamental to good overall health. And there are times when we all need support to work through challenges and feel better.
An estimated one in five Americans struggle with mental health each year. That was true even before the COVID-19 pandemic, which exacerbated the longstanding mismatch between the supply of mental health and substance use disorder care and the demand.
Because of this mismatch it can be difficult to find the kind of care you or your family needs. More than 41% of psychologists admitted that they were unable to meet the demand that has risen since the pandemic began. Many people live in areas where there are very few mental health care providers: nearly 130 million Americans live in places with less than one mental health care provider per 30,000 people. That’s the equivalent of having four therapists for every person that can fit in Michigan Stadium, the country’s largest.
But help is coming. Health insurance providers are working hard and fast to help where they can to clear barriers that stand in the way. They’re creating new ways to lower costs and improve access to mental health and substance use disorder care because they know it’s badly needed. They’re expanding services and offerings in big ways. They’re using new tech, like virtual care programs and accessibility tools, to break geographical and social barriers to care. They’re even working with lawmakers in Washington to advocate for new programs to grow the pool of behavioral health care clinicians and people’s access to them.
Today, there are resources available for those who need care. Check out the tips below to see how to access free resources or your insurance benefits to get the help you need.
- Get immediate help. If your situation is life threatening, call 911 or contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by calling 988. The CDC also has important contact information here if you or a child are experiencing violence or assault.
- Ask about EAPs. If you are employed, ask your company about its Employee Assistance Program (EAP). 4 out of 5 employers offer these programs as a benefit to support mental health and assist with non-medical issues that impact work and home life. Many employers also provide mental health leave to workers who need it.
- Try virtual care. More than 60% of employer health plans cover telehealth services, which means it may be easier for you to find virtual access to care if you have insurance through work. If you also have a Health Savings Account, you have new access to mental health care. Nearly all consumer-directed health plans (80%+) have covered telehealth services since 2020 without deductibles — and most often for behavioral health care. Medicare recipients can also access telehealth services to seek mental health and substance use disorder care.
- Flip your card. If you have health insurance, you can always check the back of your insurance card for more information on your benefits. Every insurance provider will list a number you can call to learn more about how to use your plan, which can help you decide how and when you reach out for mental health and substance use disorder care.
- Use directories to find a provider. To find care, you can visit your plan’s website to see a directory of in-network providers. Or, check out online directories like Alma, ZocDoc, Monarch, and Headway and check to see if they are in your network.
- Check your marketplace plan. If you have a marketplace health insurance plan, you have access to mental health and substance use disorder care. It is considered one of the 10 essential health benefits of any plan under the Affordable Health Care Act and is included in the coverage you receive. Google or ask your insurance provider for an easy-to-read summary of benefits and coverage list to see how you can get care.
- Find in-patient services near you. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration created a resource that uses your zip code to help you find treatment or in-patient facilities close by.
- Get tailored help. Resources like the Asian Mental Health Collective, Black Mental Health Alliance, Therapy for Black Girls, and Therapy for LatinX all have directories you can search for a provider within your community. People in the LGBTQ+ community can also find mental health support through the LGBT National Hotline, National Queer and Trans Therapists of Color Network, Pride Institute, Trans Lifeline, and The Trevor Project.
- Get issue-specific resources. PsychHub, of which AHIP is a partner, has an online library of free resources for coping with 28 different issues, like addiction, depression, grief, and racism.
- Find a program. Many health insurance providers are collaborating with health partners to create behavioral health community access programs, creating new sites and apps, or working with schools and hospitals to expand mental health care in the communities they serve. If you have health insurance, search this list to see what your provider is doing to help.
Everyone deserves access to the mental health and substance use disorder care they need. If you need mental health support, you aren’t alone. And you’re not without help.
Learn more about efforts to grow mental health care access in the United States here.