First Steps to Help

Most mental health conditions are common, treatable illnesses that can affect anyone. There are many different types that can range from mild to severe, and the signs and symptoms vary depending on the type of condition.  Visit our Common Mental Health Diagnoses page to learn more about the signs and symptoms of mental health conditions.  If you are concerned about your mental health or a loved one’s mental health, seeking help is the first step to recovery.

If you need assistance in addressing a barrier that is preventing you from seeking care, Connect with a Peer Advocate to talk through possible options.

Who Do You Contact First?

If you have health insurance, you can either contact your health care provider or contact your insurance provider for covered health providers. If you do not have insurance or you have limited coverage, you may want to call your county to see if you qualify for services for mental health treatment.

Depending on the type of coverage you have and what your health provider recommends, the type of health professional you see initially may vary.

Primary care providers or general practitioners can provide the initial assessment to see if you are experiencing a mental health condition. If necessary, they can provide medications for certain types of mental health conditions and can also provide a referral to a mental health professional for further evaluation and treatment. They may also utilize labs or medical tests to rule out any contributing health issue that may be causing your symptoms.

There are many different types of mental health professionals and many types of therapies. The type of therapy will often depend on each individual and the condition(s) that need to be addressed. Certain mental health professionals can also prescribe medications if needed.
Make sure that you know what your options are for treatment and how these will be implemented.

Things to consider or to ask when seeking a provider:

  • Review information (bios) about available health professionals. What are their specialties? How available are they at the desired location?
  • Do you have any specific requests for finding a health professional? (culture specific, gender specific, faith-based, prior military background, etc.)
  • Your appointment may be set up by a scheduler. Be sure to let them know if you have any specific requests.
  • Would it be helpful to have a trusted friend or family member help you make the first appointment? For some, a loved one may provide that needed encouragement and support for seeking care.

Additional Resources:

How Insurance Works

Types of Mental Health Professionals 

Mental Health Providers: Tips on Finding One 

 

What to Expect at Your First Appointment

Depending on the type of provider that you are seeing, certain things may be given during an initial visit:

  • Lab or other medical tests for underlying or contributing non-mental health condition
  • Diagnostic mental health assessment
  • Prescription for medication(s)
  • Referral to a mental health specialist

Questions that may be asked by the health professional you are seeing:

  • What symptoms are you experiencing or have experienced, frequency and intensity, and how has this affected your daily life/routines?
  • Is there a past history of mental health issues?
  • Any family history of mental health issues?
  • Any substance abuse – past and present?
  • What prescribed medications, over-the-counter medications, dietary and herbal remedies, and vitamins or minerals are you taking?

Questions that you may want to ask:

  • Ask your health provider about the recommended course of treatment and what options are available to treat your health condition, along with expectations of each.

If you are prescribed a medication, you may want to ask:

  • What the medication is for and how is it going to help you?
  • How and when should you take it and how much should you take?
  • How long will you be on this medication?
  • What should you do if you miss a dose?
  • Will it interact with other prescription or over-the-counter medications, dietary or herbal remedies, vitamins or minerals?
  • Should it be taken with food? What food or drinks should you avoid while taking this medication?
  • What are the side effects of this medication and what should you do if you experience them?
  • Who should you contact if you have any problems or questions about the medication(s)?