How to Help a Friend Get Help

Looking for a new therapist is worse than dating. I have to automatically rule out anyone who doesn’t take my insurance (which I am grateful to have, yada yada yada) and then find someone who is located within a 20-minute drive and is accepting new patients.

This is not even getting to the next part where I have to actually meet them, explain my “case history,” which, for a psychiatrist or psychologist is basically your life story, and then see if their “style” of therapy is at all what I am looking for. Going through this while I’m actually feeling quite good, really, is incredibly upsetting and frustrating. If I were feeling worse, and really needed help very acutely, I would not have the energy and grace required to actually get that help.

So, new tip for people who want to support a friend who needs it, but don’t know what to do: help with the logistics of getting help. If you are very close to them, help find an insurance-eligible doctor and find out if they are accepting new patients, so your friend can then call to make an appointment without being “rejected” out of hand. If you are not at that level, you could offer to drive them to and from an appointment. Depressed and anxious people do not make good drivers, anyway, and the added stress of navigating to an unfamiliar place, finding parking, and driving home after a potentially upsetting or draining 50-minute hour can feel insurmountable. Or your friend may need to go on their lunch break or right after work, so they would appreciate snacks they can eat at their desk or in the car to make up for disrupted mealtimes.

Most of all, please treat this like a physical doctor’s appointment that your friend needs the same way they would go in for a sprained ankle. Without getting on my “stigma of mental illness” soapbox, I’ll just say that having support through making the decision to get help, the seemingly endless phone calls, and treating this like any other medically-necessary procedure has made a huge difference in my ability to cope. It’s not secret, it’s not shameful, it’s just a thing that needs to be done.