How to get free mental health help during the coronavirus pandemic

By GMA TEAM, ABC News

(NEW YORK) — May is Mental Health Awareness Month in the U.S. and the coronavirus pandemic has created an unprecedented need for mental health resources.

Across the country, 45% of adults say the pandemic is having a negative effect on their mental health, a rate that increases for women, Hispanic adults and black adults, with those populations more likely to report a “major” mental health impact, according to a tracking poll released last month by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

In response, a new crop of mental health resources have emerged to help people cope with the fear, isolation, uncertainty, stress and anxiety the pandemic has provoked in many people.

“Now more than ever, the public is looking for reassurance and guidance around how to take care of their mental health,” Pooja Lakshmin, MD, a board-certified psychiatrist specializing in women’s mental health, told ABC News’ Good Morning America earlier this month. “I really think it’s important for mental health providers and physicians to meet people where they are.”

Here are tips and resources for accessing free and low-cost mental health care:

1. Check with your employer and insurance provider: Many companies already offer free or low-cost mental health services that often go untapped because they are not widely known.

Check with your employer and your insurance company to see what is available, whether by calling the 1-800 number on the back of your insurance card, visiting your company’s human resources website or asking your human resources contact if the company has an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) with mental health benefits.

2. Ask a therapist to work with you at a discounted rate: Just as you may reach out to your bank or landlord to work with you during financial hardship caused by COVID-19, consider asking a licensed mental health counselor if they are willing to work with you at a discounted rate or on a payment plan so you can get the help you need.

3. Look online for help: Organizations like Mental Health America (MHA) and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) have mental health resources available year-round for free.

In this time of COVID-19, they and others are increasing their online offerings and, in some cases, tailoring them to the current pandemic.

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) has free COVID-19-specific resources on its website. Major mental health groups and insurance companies have partnered together on the COVID-19 Mental Health Resource Hub, which offers videos and resources for both individuals and providers.

Mental health advocacy groups have also partnered on the website Covidmentalhealthsupport.org, where you can simply select your state and get results for free mental health help in your area.

For those focused on recovery from addiction and substance abuse, In the Rooms, a free tool, offers 130 weekly meetings online.

4. See what your state is offering: States from New York to Michigan are creating hotlines and offering additional mental health support for people whose lives have been upended by COVID-19.

Check your state’s Department of Health website and coronavirus-specific resource pages to see what services they are offering for support.

5. Talkspace, which offers online therapy via text message, video calls or phone calls, is offering free therapist-led Facebook support groups, discounted subscriptions for all and free support for healthcare and essential workers, according to its website.

6. Headspace and other meditation apps are offering COVID-19-specific meditation programs and free offerings for healthcare workers.

Headspace is now also offering free, one-year subscriptions to all unemployed people in the U.S. and has unveiled a new collection of meditations called “Living through unemployment.

7. BetterHelp, a virtual therapy site, is offering one free month of therapy from a BetterHelp licensed therapist during the coronavirus pandemic.

8. Hims & Hers, telehealth services for men and women, are offering free group support sessions online and by phone on topics ranging from parenting and relationships to mindfulness and meditation.

9. The Emotional PPE Project is a volunteer-run nonprofit that matches healthcare workers on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic with licensed mental health practitioners who are volunteering their services for free.

10. Open Path Psychotherapy Collective is a nonprofit that matches middle- and lower-income people (and families) with affordable psychotherapy and mental health services, according to its website. You can just type in your zip code to find a list of mental health professionals in the organization’s network.

If you are in crisis or know someone in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741. You can reach Trans Lifeline at 877-565-8860 (U.S.) or 877-330-6366 (Canada) and The Trevor Project at 866-488-7386.

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