Underemployed and On Food Stamps, I Was Hit Hard by Deep Depression
More than 16 million people in the US are diagnosed with depression each year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Here are some tips on how to budget for treatment if you find you need it.
We 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, getting professional help can be costly. Many of us avoid the subject, quietly struggling to get by day-to-day.
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.
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. I was also dealing with the aftermath of going to my dream school. What’s more, I had massive student loans with little income to pay for it all. I was having a hard time adjusting to the ‘real’ world outside of the school bubble in a new 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 into 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.
When you’re depressed or dealing with some other mental health issue and cannot even afford to get help, it feels like salt in the wound.
Nonetheless, I was determined to find a solution. After doing some research, I found out that the local graduate counseling program offered community clinics. They were open to anyone and their sessions were $15 per hour. At the time, I was on food stamps and underemployed. So I called and asked if there was any flexibility with the payment.
They said they could see me for $5 per session. It felt like a miracle!
In that moment, I realized something important: most things are negotiable if you ask.
Now, I firmly believe people should budget for their mental health — whatever that means to them. It could range from therapy and medication to yoga and tea. 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.
Budgeting for your mental health is so vitally important.
Many people might think it’s unnecessary or they feel ashamed. But addressing your mental health can have financial benefits as well.
Financial wellness expert Amanda Clayman says, “Spending money on your mental health can have a number of positive effects on your life, including your financial bottom line.”
“First of all, Clayman continues, addressing mental health issues like anxiety, depression, and chronic stress can have a positive impact on your physical health. Reducing absenteeism and underperformance issues that could hurt your income and job security or chances of advancement.”
But how much should you budget for mental health? And more importantly, how can you save money on something that can be so expensive or deemed unnecessary?
First, assess what you need right now. If you need professional help, start saving money each month so you can afford.
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.
It’s also important to check your benefits with your insurance company.
“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,” says Clayman.
Often you can see an in-network psychotherapist for just a co-pay, 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 says.
Though people don’t often bring it up in budgeting conversations, your mental health deserves to be a line item. It influences all aspects of your life, so why not save money to keep you happy and healthy?