For many of us, reaching out for help is one of the hardest, and most courageous, things we can do.
The stigma around mental health and addiction seems to be shrinking. Still, we have a long way to go and many of us do not have in-person support networks that are able to help us through these challenges.
Major health diagnoses, divorce, and other life events also require further emotional support.
I am not a trained psychotherapist – just a person who occasionally experiences mental health challenges.
I was also diagnosed with (currently) incurable lymphoma in early 2022 and have found these resources helpful during my cancer journey. Scroll down towards the bottom of the page for resources that can help with the mental and emotional issues that occur with major and chronic health concerns.
My hope is that you find these resources helpful.
If you are feeling suicidal and aren’t ready to talk to anyone – read this post https://metanoia.org/suicide/.
It’s a scary place to be. You are not alone.
For those of us concerned about a loved one, NPR has published an article of resources to guide you through helping someone who may be considering suicide.
If you need immediate assistance and are based in the US, the following help lines may be of service:
- US Mental Health Crisis Hotline - call 988
- US Anonymous Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator or call 1-800-662-HELP(4357)
GoodRx has a blog post addressing what to expect when you call 988.
Please allow yourself to receive the help you need.
If you can get in-person help and have trusted people who will support you – please do that as soon as you are comfortable. Having people within my immediate circle look out for me as I move through the world has been invaluable. I am incredibly grateful to have such a strong support network.
If you are fortunate enough to have health insurance - work with your insurer to find an appropriate therapist. For those who plan to pay cash, Psychology Today has a good Therapist Finder. Find a Therapist, Psychologist, Counselor - Psychology Today
If you are not ready to reach out within your immediate environment or need to be stealthy about getting help, and you are not in immediate crisis, 7 Cups is an anonymous text-based therapy service. They provide community, trained listeners, and informative resources. (Full disclosure: I happen to know one of the people behind this service. That said, I am impressed by what they have done and feel they provide a very important service.) https://www.7cups.com/
If you are in a dangerous or abusive situation – use the guidance from HelpGuide.org to ensure your safety during this process. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/abuse/getting-out-of-an-abusive-relationship.htm
I have found the resources below helpful for specific issues:
Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) is a non-profit that provides resources for anxiety and depression, including a therapist directory. https://adaa.org/
SingleCare, a pharmacy prescription discount plan, wrote an excellent description of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), including causes, and criteria. If you think you might have PTSD, please allow a qualified therapist to support you. What is PTSD? (singlecare.com)
- Verizon has put together a library of assistive technology recommendations and links for those who suffer with PTSD. Although the page focuses on military veterans, the information and recommendations can help anyone who suffers from PTSD. Assistive Technology for Veteran PTSD (verizon.com) .
- Maryville University's Psychology Department provides a list of resources for U.S. military veterans with PTSD. The page also includes a great introduction to PTSD and living with the condition.
The Recovery Group has provided an international list of mental health and addiction hotlines - http://www.therecoverygroup.org/special/crisis.html
- In the Rooms is an online addiction community based on AA’s 12 steps. This community is run by recovering addicts. For people without access to AA meetings or who hesitate to go – this is a good introduction to 12-step recovery. I found the community warm and encouraging during early sobriety. https://www.intherooms.com/
- SMARTRecovery is an alternative to the AA model of addiction recovery. This approach appears to be a viable alternative to AA. I have more experience with the AA model, so I cannot personally speak to this approach or the community. https://www.smartrecovery.org/
Your employment benefits may include an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) as part of the package. These services can either be helpful or harmful dependent upon the level of confidentiality provided by the employer. Fortunately, my experience with EAPs has been positive. Read the benefits materials carefully to ensure you are comfortable with the level of confidentiality provided with this program by your employer. https://work.chron.com/pros-cons-employee-assistance-program-12009.html
Employer-provided health insurance often include a separate mental health offering. Check your insurance documentation and resources for therapists covered by your insurance and for information on the claims process. The claims process for mental health often differs from going to the doctor. Many therapists are not in the insurance system, requiring you to submit claims after payment. Read your employer’s or insurance benefits enrollment materials to learn more. https://www.mentalhealth.gov/get-help/health-insurance
Some employers provide third-party Health Advocates. This may be one of the most useful services currently offered in employee health plans. These people help you navigate the aggravation of medical billing - very important during a time when you may be vulnerable. One of my employers used http://www.healthadvocate.com/site/ .
Your employer may use a different service. If a Health Advocate is available as part of your employee health plan, and you can ensure confidentiality, engage with them ASAP. They can help you translate the complexities of insurance and health care when your patience and resilience is low. The service I used assigned a specific case manager who followed the case from first contact-to-resolution. She prevented more than one insurance-based freakout and became a critical part of my support network during a very dark time.
If your employee health plan does not have a third-party Health Advocate as part of their benefits package, many insurance companies now have patient advocates. For cancer and other major illnesses, your insurance company may pro-actively reach out to you with case management services. If you are unsure whether you have access to a Health Advocate - contact your insurance company's Member Services number.
For those who are self-employed and are not carried on another person’s policy – as of this writing, the US has a health insurance marketplace. https://www.healthcare.gov/
If you are outside the US, check with your national government for healthcare resources. The Commonwealth Fund has a summary of health care system profiles for 19 countries – for those who are interested. https://international.commonwealthfund.org/
Chronic, incurable, or terminal diagnoses can bring up a number of mental, emotional, and financial issues as you or a loved one navigates this dramatic life change.
Insurers, hospitals, and many doctors have resources available that can help you navigate some of these issues.
- Insurance - Ask your Member Services group about Case Management and Patient Advocate services. You may wish to also leverage your insurance for Mental Health services and finding a provider. For major diagnoses - you may be assigned a Behavioral Health case manager who can help you sift through your benefits and find a mental health practitioner who is versed in navigating critical illness and end-of-life issues.
- Hospital - Most hospitals have Case Managers for their patients. These resources are best accessed when you are in the hospital or in active treatment with that hospital.
- Doctors - Many practices, particularly cancer doctors, have someone who maintains a list of resources for mental health and financial assistance programs.
The Cancer community also shares information and resources that help patients and caregivers navigate this incredibly stressful time. My list is focused on Cancer and Lymphoma, but other organizations focused on navigating serious illness may also have resources available.
- Cancercare.org provides Counseling and Case Management assistance as well as help with navigating the financials of cancer. They also host patient and caregiver focused educational programs with leading oncologists and researchers that I have found informative.
- Leukemia and Lymphoma Society provides extensive information and resources for patients, caregivers, and medical professionals around blood cancers. If you click on Patients and Caregivers - you will see a list of support groups and other resources to help you and your loved ones navigate your diagnosis. They also maintain a list of helpful links to other organizations that can provide both mental help and financial assistance.
- The American Cancer Society has a help line and resources for treatment issues such as lodging and transportation. They also have a 24/7 help line for any cancer patient or caregiver that can help you find other resources you may need as you go through this journey.
- American Society of Clinical Oncology and their patient-focused information library (cancer.net) maintains a list of resources for cancer patients that I have found helpful throughout my journey.
- Family Reach provides financial guidance and assistance for cancer patients and their families. This service helps reduce the financial toxicity of a cancer diagnosis through consultation and access to financial resources. They have a Resource Navigator service that can help with finding financial resources and funding.
- The National Comprehensive Cancer Network maintains the Standard of Care documentation leveraged by oncologists and insurance companies. Use the search box to find your specific type of cancer. You can use this documentation to help you make treatment decisions and talk with your doctor and insurance company. They also maintain a list of support groups and other resources for patients.
- BeiGene, a large pharmaceutical company, is maintaining a list of cancer-specific mental health resources on their cancerandmentalhealth.org page.
A major health diagnosis, particularly cancer, is physically, intellectually, and emotionally taxing for the patient and everyone who cares about the patient. I compare this to having to manage an incredibly complex life-or-death project (because it is) and the project manager (you) is running at less than 25%.
Now is not the time to try to plow through this alone. Please reach out for help and support.
From my experience, addressing mental health issues requires a single-minded focus on taking care of yourself above all other demands – especially during an acute crisis.
Give yourself some slack during this time.
Reach out to supporters (professionals, friends, specialty peer networks) when you can.
Know you are not alone.
I’ll be rooting for you!