“I was kind of a sludgy mud-dweller… everything was really slooooow.” – Neko Case
I’ve long admired the talented musician Neko Case, and when she came out last year in interviews as having dealt with major depression, I was deeply moved. What struck me most about these interviews was her honesty, humor, and utter nonchalance while speaking about the illness—depression is not often talked about this openly by public figures. And yet, according to the National Council for Behavioral Health, nearly 7% of the North American population experiences depression in any given year. I have been one of those people.
After attending a training entitled Mental Health First Aid a couple weeks ago I was reminded of the stigma and shame attached to mental and mood disorders—illnesses that people often have no more control over than say, epilepsy or diabetes. I’ve always been pretty hesitant to talk about my own experiences with dysthymia (chronic depression) for this very reason, but I’ve made it a goal of mine to be more open about it from now on. I think it’s important that other people feel they’re not alone, and also that they’re aware of resources for getting help. We all need a little help sometimes.
I’ve compiled a few helpful resources here for those dealing with a mental or mood disorder (with a focus on the under- or uninsured), or for the loved ones of those who are struggling.
re:solve Crisis Network: 1-888-7 YOU CAN (1-888-796-8226) — This 24-hour hotline is staffed by mental health professionals who can assist callers in avoiding a mental health crisis. They can also direct callers towards in-person care.
Allegheny County Mental Health Services: Allegheny County Information, Referral and Emergency Services (IRES) (412) 350-4457 — This number is also answered 24 hours a day /7 days a week and puts you in contact with an Allegheny County staff member who can provide information, find someone to provide ongoing help, or help you arrange involuntary examination and treatment when needed.
Allegheny County Peer Support Warmline: 1-866-661-9276 — This hotline provides supportive listening, problem solving, resource sharing and peer support for mental health service users or anyone else 18 and older.
Anonymous Mental Health Screening for In/Active Members of the Military: This service is designed specifically for members of the armed forces. These free, self-administered, online screenings can help determine if behaviors related to mood or anxiety levels might be related to a mental health concern and/or indicate that a professional consultation could be helpful.
Birmingham Free Clinic: Basic primary care, blood pressure and blood glucose screening, smoking cessation, and physicals are provided. Mental health assessment and counseling by appointment only for existing patients. Provides free health care to uninsured Latino patients on Saturdays.
NAMI Family-to-Family Education Program: A free 12-week course for family caregivers of individuals with severe mental illnesses that discusses the clinical treatment of these illnesses and teaches the knowledge and skills that family members need to cope more effectively. NAMI De Familia a Familia, Contact Alby 412-244-3142 or Jorge 412-788-4582.
Pittsburgh Action Against Rape: PAAR offers English and Spanish language counseling for victims of sexual violence. Additional services offered include preventative education and mental health counseling for both adults and children. Offices are on the South Side at 81 S. 19th Street. Contact Teresa Otoya-McAdams 412-431-5665 or email@example.com.
Psychology Clinic: Duquesne University has a free clinic that requires no insurance or personal documentation. There is no limit to the number of sessions a person can have. Family members are welcome. It does not have addiction and substance abuse services.
One good thing that has come out of my own (ongoing) experiences with depression—I’ve realized that mental and mood disorders can happen to almost anyone, and I need to give people the benefit of the doubt and be gentle when they’re having a hard time.
So be kind to your fellow travelers and take good care,
PS – Bonus resource: the Mental Health Channel has a series called The Inside Story that profiles people who “reveal their mental health diagnoses and their paths to overcome them.” It’s terrific!