Knowledge TRULY is power. Many caregivers and families often end up perplexed by the multiple avenues and types of treatment options available in social services. Many do not receive all the information they could get from their therapists, case workers, or advocates. So I encourage you to DIY (Do It Yourself)!
I’m a big proponent of learning as much as you can about yourself, diagnosis, available resources, type of medications taken, and treatments used in therapy. It all can be overwhelming, especially when you don’t know where to start. So a first step might be connecting with people who understand you and are familiar with the system. A second step is finding resources on your own.
Gaining knowledge will greatly impact you. Would you attempt to drive a car without moving the mirrors or adjusting the seat? No! So don’t attempt to tackle the mental health system without knowing who you are in it.
Here are some tips that may be helpful in swimming through the system:
- Research your prescriptions: Many individuals receive prescriptions from their doctor without even looking at the name. It is important to know what you are taking and why. Check into the Internet Drug Index. If you cannot figure out what type of pill you are taking, you can use this site to identify it.
- Free resources: SAMSHA-Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration offers free mental health and substance abuse resources for individuals, families, children and teens.
- Get a living will: A living will is also known as Advanced Directives. This form allows you to designate someone as your proxy or someone who can make mental health (or medical) decisions for you in the event you cannot.
- Research your local library: Utilize that library card that you’ve tossed in the corner. Libraries have both local and online resources in social services that can give you direction. If you visit their website, you might find useful online sources. You can also find local support groups, agencies, and meetings. You can also request professional books and articles through your ILL (Interlibrary Loan) service.
- Google what you need to know: I don’t advocate careless Googling of information, but look for sites that are recognized as legitimate information sources such as MayoClinic, WebMD, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or National Institute of Mental Health. Set up for Google alerts for local mental health news to stay informed.
- Sign up with local organizations: My local Psychological Association offers membership for a small fee to people outside the field. They send monthly newsletters to keep you informed about workshops or free classes online.
- Tap into an advocate: The National Alliance on Mental Illness, Active Minds, or Mental Health America are all great places to contact for resources, suggestions, or referrals. Find advocates for your specific need here.
- Make your case manager work: In many cases, clients are detached from their case workers under the impression that they cannot help them as much as a therapist can. Find out who your case manager is and make them work for you. They have resources everywhere!
- Try discussion groups: Although I’m not a fan of online discussion forums, you might find a great deal of support in them.
Help is available, although in many domains it is lacking. You will often have to swim through the sea of confusion to get the services that should be readily available. If you have questions about resources feel free to send me a message or post a reply here.
All the best