Mental health treatment is important to help you live a better life. Whether you struggle with mental illness or not, we all have mental health issues now and then that we need help with. Unfortunately, professional treatments like therapy and medication can be expensive and difficult to access. If you have insurance, it may not cover mental health treatment or require you to pay significantly more out of pocket than you can afford. Here are some free and low-cost mental health resources you can use.
1. Contact a crisis hotline.
We all run into a crisis at some point in our lives. It’s best to manage the warning signs before it turns into a crisis. However, we can’t always anticipate when a crisis may come on; this is why crisis hotlines are always available and important. In addition to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (988) there’s also Crisis Text Line (text HOME to 741-741). Both these hotlines and others allow you to connect with a crisis counselor for free. They’re trained to handle crises, but if you find yourself on the verge of one it’s always a good idea to reach out early. You can find a list of hotlines on the American Psychiatric Organization(APA)’s website and international hotlines on the Open Counseling website.
2. Contact a warmline to connect with peer support for mental health.
Warmlines are numbers you can call to talk to someone who has been there — a person who has experienced mental health struggles themselves and is trained to listen and offer support. Unlike hotlines, they aren’t geared toward people in “crisis,” and can help you work through difficult emotions before they escalate. Warmlines also generally don’t call emergency responders at the first hint you might be experiencing suicidal ideation, so long as there’s no imminent threat to you or others, so they’re safer for LGBTQ+ and BIPOC folks. You can find warmline directories here and here.
3. Join a mental health support group.
Support groups provide you with a place to talk about your feelings with people in similar situations. These can be in person, online, or both. While it’s important to speak with everyone in your support system, it can be liberating to speak and connect with people who have lived through similar experiences. Mental illness is still not well understood among the public, especially for those who have never experienced it, so simply speaking with someone who gets it can make a world of difference in your life. In addition to the Ability Toolbox’s online support groups, you can use Psychology Today’s search tool to search for in-person support groups near you.
4. Talk to friends about your mental health.
Friends don’t replace therapists, but they can be great people to rely on during hard times. You can tell your friends if you’re having an off day and need to relax, or maybe ask to hang out with them. Distractions can provide a reprieve from your symptoms and help you relax. Not sure where to start? Talkspace has an online guide on how to talk to friends about your mental health, and Mental Health America (MHA) has a free worksheet on how to start mental health conversations with friends.
5. Journal your feelings.
Journaling helps a lot of people process their feelings and work through them. You can use a physical notebook or journal and some writing materials like pens or pencils, you can type online in a notes folder on your laptop or phone, or you can use a journaling app. I’ve used iMoodJournal, but there are plenty of other apps out there to try as well. You can try out different ones or use multiple apps if that best suits your needs.
6. Read self-help content to help you manage your mental health.
Learning self-help strategies is crucial in your recovery. But sometimes we don’t know where to start. That’s where the following self-help resources come in. You can read mental health books written by professionals and people like you who’ve gone through similar experiences. You can also try coping tools such as fidget toys.
None of these resources are meant to be replacements for medical treatment like therapy and medication, but, unfortunately, not everyone can access those resources for a variety of reasons: money, transportation, or other barriers. We need to continue to break down the barriers that prevent people from accessing mental health treatment. However, in the meantime, there are thankfully resources out there that you can use that are more affordable or don’t cost money. Everyone deserves access to mental health resources, and I hope you find the best ones to fit your needs.
Fairley Lloyd is a bisexual writer and editor passionate about mental health education and accessibility. She earned her BFA in creative writing from the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Her work appears in The Mighty, Thought Catalog, Spoonie Magazine, and elsewhere. You can find her sporadically on Twitter (@fairleylloyd) and Instagram (@fairleywords).