Mental health issues are tough in the best of circumstances. Learn how to deal with #depression even if you're underemployed. #underemployedWe all know we need to take care of our health. Sometimes, that means tending to our mental health. Whether it’s therapy, medication, or both, professional help can be costly. Many of us avoid the subject, quietly struggling to get by day to day. How do we deal with depression when it is so expensive to find treatment?

A few years ago, that was me. I was in a deep depression, and I could barely keep it together. Waking up and choosing to get on with my day was as big a challenge as climbing a mountain on crutches.

My Difficulties Dealing With Depression

I had just moved across the country to be with my partner in a new city. But I was struggling to find full-time work.

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What’s more, I was also dealing with the financial aftermath of going to my dream school. Graduating had left me with massive student loan debt and little income to pay for it all. I was having a hard time adjusting to the “real” world outside of grad school in a city that didn’t feel right for me.

Things that shouldn’t have been a big deal felt enormous. After realizing I wasn’t coping very well with all the change and stress in my life, I decided to go to therapy to have the expertise of an impartial third party.

The problem? I was uninsured and the cost of therapy out-of-pocket was close to $100 per hour at the time. In bigger cities, it can be two or three times that.

When you’re depressed, being unable to afford help feels like salt in the wound.

Nonetheless, I was determined to find a solution to deal with my depression. After doing some research, I found out that the local graduate counseling program offered a community clinic. It was open to anyone, and the sessions were $15 per hour. At the time, I was underemployed and on food stamps. So I called and asked if there was any flexibility with the payment.

When they said they could see me for $5 per session, it felt like a miracle. At that moment, I realized something important: Most things are negotiable if you ask.

The Importance of Mental Health

Now I firmly believe people should budget for their mental health — whatever that means to them. It could range from professional help to self-care techniques; things like therapy to medication and yoga. The point is that our minds are where we live. Our thoughts create our world, and when our thoughts are dark, so is everything else.

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Budgeting for your mental health is vitally important. It can be a struggle to figure out how to deal with depression, when it can be so expensive? Many people might think it’s unnecessary or feel ashamed about the stigma that mental illness still tends to carry. Don’t listen to unconstructive noise.

Addressing your mental health can have financial benefits as well.

“Spending money on your mental health can have a number of positive effects on your life, including your financial bottom line,” says Amanda Clayman, a financial therapist.

“Addressing mental health issues like anxiety, depression, and chronic stress can have a positive impact on your physical health,” she continues. “Reducing absenteeism and underperformance ultimately help ensure your income and job security or chances of advancement.”

Budgeting for Your Mental Health

But how much should you budget to deal with your mental health and depression? And more importantly, how can you save money on something that can be so expensive or deemed unnecessary?

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First, assess what you need right now. If you need professional help, start saving money each month so you can afford it.

In order to save money, I recommend that people look for counseling services at local schools. Look into community centers and religious institutions first. Going to counseling at the local graduate school helped me, and it didn’t seem much different from the licensed professionals I had previously worked with.

There’s also a number of online resources you can use to find affordable counseling. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America offers resources for finding affordable help. Many of the professionals in its Therapist Directory offer a sliding scale for payment (ask when you call or visit for a consultation). Additionally, there’s a directory of Federally Funded Health Centers, which operate on a “pay what you can” system based on your income.

Financial Therapy

While seeking out therapy on the cheap, consider your relationship with money and whether it informs your anxiety or depression. If you find yourself saving compulsively, ignoring your own financial problems entirely, or hiding your finances from your partner, you may benefit from seeing a financial therapist.

Check out the Financial Therapy Association’s website for additional resources, and read CentSai’s guide on determining whether financial therapy is right for you. Depending on your situation, this may be a key component of dealing with depression.

Know Your Insurance

It’s also important to check your benefits with your insurance company, especially if you’re dealing with depression or other mental health issues.

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“In order to save money on mental health, make sure you’re clear on what your mental health benefits are if you have them through your insurance company,” Clayman says.

“Often you can see an in-network psychotherapist for just a copay, even though you may be limited to a certain number of covered sessions. If you want to work with someone outside of your network, make sure you ask if they offer a sliding scale,” she continues.

The Bottom Line on How to Deal With Depression

Though people don’t often bring it up in budgeting conversations, your mental health deserves to be a line item. Learning how to deal with depression influences all aspects of your life, so why not save money to keep you happy and healthy?

Additional reporting by Connor Beckett McInerney and Alice Yeung.