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Affordable mental Health care

What should you do if you're under a lot of stress or dealing with a mental health issue and you don't have the money for treatment?

You're not alone if you're concerned about paying for mental health care. Lots of people need help and worry that they can't afford it. Even though health insurance covers mental health issues, it can still be challenging. Some insurance companies don't cover mental health services very much, and they often have expensive copays and deductibles.

Still, it is possible to find affordable — sometimes even free — mental health care or support.

If you ever consider harming yourself, you feel severely hopeless or depressed, or you've experience

Free or Low-Cost Counseling

When it comes to finding a counselor, start at school. School counselors and school psychologists can provide a good listening ear — for free! They can help you size up the situation you're dealing with and, if needed, refer you to more support in your county or community.

If your school counselor can't help, you'll need to do a little more research to figure out how to get help. Some of the free or low-cost mental health care possibilities to explore include:

  • Local mental health centers and clinics. These groups are funded by federal and state governments so they charge less than you might pay a private therapist. Search online for "mental health services" and the name of the county or city where you live. Or, go to the website for the National Association of Free & Charitable Clinics. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Health Resources and Services Administration also provides a list of federally funded clinics by state.
    (Note: By clicking either of these links, you will be leaving the TeensHealth site.)

    One thing to keep in mind: Not every mental health clinic will fit your needs. Some might not work with people your age (for example, a clinic might specialize in veterans or kids with developmental disabilities). It's still worth a call, though. Even if a clinic can't help you, the people who work there might recommend someone who can.

  • Hospitals. Call your local hospitals and ask what kinds of mental health services they offer — and at what price. Teaching hospitals, where doctors are trained, often provide low- or no-cost services.
  • Colleges and universities. If a college in your area offers graduate degrees in psychology or social work, the students might run free or low-cost clinics as part of their training.
  • On-campus health services. If you're in college or about to start, find out what kind of counseling and therapy your school offers and at what cost. Ask if they offer financial assistance for students.
  • Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs). These free programs provide professional therapists to evaluate people for mental health conditions and offer short-term counseling. Not everyone has access to this benefit: EAPs are run through workplaces, so you (or your parents) need to work for an employer that offers this type of program.
  • Private therapists. Ask trusted friends and adults for recommendations, then call to see if they offer a "sliding fee scale" (this means they charge based on how much you can afford to pay). Some psychologists even offer certain services for free, if necessary. To find a therapist in your area, check the websites of your state's mental health association or the American Psychological Association (APA).
    (Note: By clicking either of these links, you will be leaving the TeensHealth site.)

    To qualify for low-cost services, you may need to prove financial need. If you still live at home, that could mean getting parents or guardians involved in filling out paperwork. But your therapist will keep everything confidential.

If you're under 26, your mental health care should still be covered under your parent's insurance policy. It's worth a call to the insurance company to find out what services the policy covers and how much of those services it pays for.

Financial Help

Programs like Medicaid or the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) offer free or reduced-fee medical insurance to teens who are not covered. To find out if you qualify for mental health assistance through these programs, call your doctor's office or hospital and ask to speak to a financial counselor. Your school counselor also might be able to help you figure out what kind of public medical assistance you could qualify for and guide you through the process of applying.

People under age 18 who live at home will need a parent or guardian to sign off on the paperwork for these programs. After that, though, your care will be confidential. A therapist won't tell parents what you've talked about — unless he or she thinks you may harm yourself or another person.

Source: kidshealth.org
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