Paying For Depression

9 Ways to Get Free or Low-Cost Treatment

How to get low cost treatment for depression
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If you've been diagnosed with clinical depression, you may be relieved to learn what's been causing your symptoms and that there are many medications and other treatments available for them. At the same time, you may be worried you won't be able to afford the drugs or therapy that can help you. Sometimes insurance plans aren't very generous about treating mental conditions, and if you don't have insurance at all, then paying out of pocket for a medication like Prozac, or even its generic form (fluoxetine), may be a reach for you.

There are ways to get around these challenges, though, by working with your doctor or pharmacist, and by being open to avenues of depression treatment other than antidepressants.

Split Pills

It's sometimes less expensive to buy a medication in a higher dose than the one you've been prescribed. If that drug comes in a form that can physically be split in half, it may be worth it to ask your doctor if this is an option for you. For example, if he wants you to take 20 milligrams (mg) of Prozac each day and 40-mg versions of this drug are cheaper, he could write a prescription for the larger dose pill. You can then split each of those in half.

Find Meds For Free

Pharmaceutical companies often give doctors samples of drugs. Ask your doctor if if he has any samples of your medication. Even a few freebies once in awhile can lower the overall cost of your treatment. You also may be eligible for free or medications through organizations and other programs designed to help people struggling to afford health care, such as Needy Meds, a nonprofit "providing information on healthcare programs, offering direct assistance, and facilitating programs" and The Medicine Program (TMP), which offers free services such as a prescription plan and health insurance subsidized by running Google ads on their site.

Explore Alternatives

Herbal remedies and nutraceuticals for treating depression are inexpensive and you don't need a prescription to get them. Here are a few of the most common ones for depression and also for other problems that often go along with depression. But before you run out and stock up on any of these, talk to your doctor.

Just because something is labeled "natural" doesn't mean it can't have serious side effects.

  • Evening primrose oil (for premenstrual syndrome, or PMS, and premenstrual dysphoric disorder, or PMDD)
  • 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP), an amino acid that is believed to convert tryptophan into both serotonin, a neurotransmitter, and the sleep hormone melatonin (for depression)
  • SAM-e (for depression)
  • Vitamins and minerals (for depression)
  • Kava Kava (for anxiety)
  • Valerian (for anxiety and sleep)
  • Melatonin (for sleep)

Try Therapy

Psychotherapy can be effective—and expensive, but some providers have sliding-scale fees. Based on your income, the provider will reduce his or her fees. Or you may be able to negotiate a payment plan with a therapist or a lower rate according to what your insurance plan pays. Find out what your town has to offer by way of counseling as well. Many have community mental health centers (CMHCs) that offer a range of treatment and counseling services, usually at a reduced rate for low-income people. CMHCs generally require you to have private insurance or to getting some form of public assistance. The National Council for Community Behavioral Health Care is a great source for this type of help.

Consider a Clergyman

If you belong to a church or synagogue, a staff member there may be able to put you in touch with a pastoral counseling program. Certified pastoral counselors, who are ministers in a recognized religious body, have advanced degrees in pastoral counseling, as well as professional counseling experience. Pastoral counseling is often provided on a sliding-scale fee. You can learn more on the American Association of Pastoral Counselors website. 

Seek Support 

Self-help and support groups allow people to talk about and work together on common problems such as alcoholism, substance abuse, depression, family issues, and relationships.

Usually, self-help groups are free. Sources for finding a group near you include the National Mental Health Self-Help Clearinghouse and MentalHelp.net.

Go Public

You may be eligible for public assistance to pay for your mental health care through such programs as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

Be a Guinea Pig

Many research programs for new medications will provide free treatment for participants. One downside is the risk of getting a placebo or an unproven treatment, so make sure your doctor is on board if you're interested in being part of a clinical trial.

Surf the Internet

For more information about paying for mental health care, check out these organizations:

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