By Sandy Oxx & Emily Derecktor
It feels like one of those terrible dreams where you find yourself in front of a classroom after a big meal or a big gulp of fizzy water and you burp super loudly (or emit some other bodily sound). Although it is only a dream, the feelings of shame, perceived weakness, and disgust are hard to shake.
The same goes for seeking help for your depression (and/or other mental health issues). Even if you’re experiencing significant symptoms, it’s the shame you feel for not being able to control yourself and your emotions, and disgust for not “having it all together,” that can prevent you from seeking outside help.
Perhaps you don’t think your emotions are “severe” enough to warrant help, or you just don’t think anything or anyone will help you. Often these thoughts and emotions are shaped by our culture, gender identity, profession, income level, race/ethnicity, and ultimately can lead to our decision to ask for support.
A male friend of mine said, “My depression kept me isolated, and especially being a young man, you’re mired in the toxic masculinity that our country, our world perpetuates. So you buck up and try to figure it out on your own.”
But as we’ve learned time and again, most of the time that loud burp in front of the classroom cannot be suppressed, as much as we think we have control over it. As much as we want to think it won’t happen to us.
So how can we take the first steps toward getting professional help earlier?
Here are 5 tips:
1. First, if you are reading or listening to this, you’re on the right track. You may be starting to think to yourself that you may be experiencing symptoms of depression and it is having a negative impact on your daily life. If you want to have a clearer picture of what is going on, taking this evidence-based screener is a great place to start, although meeting with a mental health professional (therapist, psychiatric provider and/or primary care provider) is the best way to determine whether something is going on.
2. Even if you feel ready to get help you might face financial and insurance concerns. Check out our Care page for an exhaustive list of ways to get help if financial/insurance issues are a problem.
1. For instance, by law, Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC) and community mental health centers are required to serve all people, regardless of income or insurance level.
2. If transportation is an issue, often community health centers can provide Uber services or subway stipends to their clients. Make sure you ask.
3. If you’re having issues accessing treatment or navigating the system, contact the Patient Advocate Foundation, which provides case management and financial aid funds.
3. The stigma of getting help for your mental health may also keep you from getting care. You are not alone in this fear. Here is an article that discusses ways you can move forward. You can also visit our Occupational/Educational pages for ways to cope with your symptoms in those settings, as well as our Hope page, which depict videos and articles of folks who are in recovery from depression. Remember, your health should come before anything else, and depression is a health issue.
4. Where should you begin? Ask your primary care doctor, if you have one. They can help you figure out what the best course of action would be. Another option is to go directly to a therapist or psychiatric provider. Either provider type will assist you in determining whether therapy and/or medication is a good idea. Our Care page has a number of directories for mental health providers, including those with expertise in working with LGBTQIA+ and BIPOC populations.
5. If the thought of actually meeting with a professional to talk about your mental health is scary for you, that makes a lot of sense. You may be able to ask to have a brief phone call with the provider to discuss your needs and get a feel for their treatment philosophy. Another way to feel more in control of the situation is to brainstorm a list of qualities that you would like your provider to possess, such as the same age, gender identity, race/ethnicity etc. Lastly, most mental health providers suggest trying two or three sessions before forming a judgment as to whether you connect with them.
6. If at any time you have thoughts of hurting yourself or others, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or visit the Crisis page.
Article in a Nutshell
-Understand that your culture, gender identity, profession, income level, and race/ethnicity may shape your willingness to seek help, and that’s okay.
-Looking for a therapist is overwhelming especially if you don’t know where to look or lack financial means. Try taking a look at our Care page for options for folks who aren’t insured/can’t afford treatment.
-Stigma is real and can affect willingness to go to therapy. Remember that depression is a serious health issue, and you deserve to get help for your health.
-Start with your primary care doctor and see what they recommend for treatment. If you don’t have one or don’t want to, visit the Care page for a directory of mental health providers.
-Brainstorm a list of qualities you’d like your therapist to posses. To reduce anxiety, see if you can have a 10-15 minute call with the provider beforehand.
-If you are experiencing a mental health crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or visit the Crisis page.