How to Get Free or Low-Cost Treatment for Depression

How to get low cost treatment for depression
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Perhaps the only thing worse than depression is having depression and not being able to afford treatment. I frequently get letters from those of you who are in just this predicament. I've collected here all of the free and low-cost resources and ideas that I have come across in the past couple of years. I will continue to add more as I find them.


Pill Splitting - An article in the September 1999 issue of Clinical Psychiatry News reports that you may be able to purchase a higher dose pill at a cost only slightly more than the dose you're currently on and split them in half.

In a presentation to the APA, it was reported that patients can save an average of 37% off their current medication costs by pill splitting. A list of the medications surveyed included popular antidepressants.


Needy Meds - According to their website: "NeedyMeds is a 501(3)(c) non-profit with the mission of helping people who cannot afford medicine or healthcare costs. The information at NeedyMeds is available anonymously and free of charge."

The Medicine Program - The Medicine Program's free services include: a prescription plan, a 24-hour nurse hotline, a dental plan, a medical plan, a vision plan and medical records storage. Their benefits are subsidized by running Google ads on their site.

Free Samples - Often pharmaceutical companies provide physicians with free samples. Ask your doctor is he/she has any samples on hand of your medication. I used to get all my Buspar this way.


There are several herbals and nutraceuticals on the market that are reputed to work well as antidepressants and anti-anxiety treatments. They are inexpensive and do not require a prescription. Remember that just because they are "natural" this doesn't mean that they don't potentially have serious medical side effects that need to be taken into account.

St. John's Wort, melatonin, Kava Kava, and Valerian have all been very effective for me personally.

There are several herbals and nutraceuticals on the market that are reputed to work well as antidepressants and anti-anxiety treatments. They are inexpensive and do not require a prescription.  St. John's Wort, melatonin, Kava Kava, and Valerian have all been very effective for me personally.

St. John's Wort (depression)

Evening Primrose Oil (PMS, PMDD)

5-HTP (depression)

SAM-e (depression)

Vitamins and Minerals (depression)

Kava Kava (anxiety)

Valerian (anxiety and sleep)

Melatonin (sleep)


Sliding Scale Fees - Some providers may have sliding-scale fees. Based on your income, the provider will reduce his or her fees.

Negotiate a Lower Fee with Your Doctor - Other providers, if they are aware of your financial limitations, may be willing to negotiate a payment plan that you can afford or to lower their rates according to what your insurance plan pays.

Community Mental Health Centers - Many communities have community mental health centers (CMHCs). These centers offer a range of mental health treatment and counseling services, usually at a reduced rate for low-income people. CMHCs generally require that you have a private insurance plan or be a recipient of public assistance.

For more information about Community Mental Health Centers:

National Council for Community Behavioral Health Care

12300 Twinbrook Parkway, Suite 320

Rockville, MD 20850

voice: 301-984-6200

fax: 301-881-7159

Pastoral Counseling Programs - Your church or synagogue can 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.

For more information about Pastoral Counseling Programs:

American Association of Pastoral Counselors

9504-A Lee Highway

Fairfax, VA 22031-2303

voice: 703-385-6967

fax: 703-352-7725



Another option is to join a self-help or support group. These groups give people a chance to talk about and work on their common problems such as alcoholism, substance abuse, depression, family issues, and relationships. Self-help groups are generally free and can be found in most communities. You may also join an online support group right here at About. We have a support group meeting 24 hours a day in our chat room.

For more information about Self-Help Groups:

American Self-Help Clearinghouse

Northwest Covenant Medical Center

25 Pocono Road

Denville, NJ 07834-2995

voice: 201-625-9565

fax: 201-625-9565

National Mental Health Self-Help Clearinghouse

1211 Chestnut Street, Suite 1000

Philadelphia, PA 19107



People with severe mental illness may be eligible for several forms of public assistance, both to meet basic costs of living and to pay for health care. Such programs include Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and disability benefits.

For information about Social Security, Medicare, and disability benefits call:Social Security Administration at 800-772-1213.

SSA Web site:

Medicare - Medicare is America's major Federal health insurance program for people who are 65 or older and for some with disabilities who are under 65. It provides basic protection for the cost of health care. Two programs can help people who have low incomes receive benefits. These are the Qualified Medicare Beneficiary (QMB) and the Specified Low- Income Medicare Beneficiary (SLMB) programs.

Medicaid - Medicaid pays for some health care costs for America's poorest people. More information about Medicaid and who is eligible for it is available at local welfare and medical assistance offices. Although there are certain Federal requirements, each State has its own rules and regulations for Medicaid. The Medicaid Clearinghouse contains links to information for individual states.


Many research programs for new meds and treatments will provide free treatment for participants. The downside of this is you run the risk of getting a placebo or an unproven treatment, but if you have nothing to lose, this may be better than no treatment at all.


If anyone knows of other free clinics around the country, please email me and I'll add them to the list.

Haight Ashbury Free Clinic- This free clinic in San Francisco provides services for general health care, HIV, homeless people, mental health care and substance abuse recovery.


For more information about paying for mental health care, contact:

Knowledge Exchange Network (KEN)

P.O. Box 42490

Washington, DC 20015

800-789-CMHS (2647)

(866) 889-2647 (tdd)

National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI)

Colonial Place Three

2107 Wilson Blvd., Suite 300

Arlington, VA 22201-3042

voice: 703-524-7600

fax: 703-524-9094

National Empowerment Center

599 Canal Street

Lawrence, MA 01840

Fax: 978-681-6426

Toll-free: 800-power2u (800-769-3728)

Outside US: 978-685-1494

Local calls: 978-685-1494


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