How to Deal with the Mental Health Provider Shortage

With mental health providers already in limited supply the increase in the need for services due to the stresses caused by the pandemic has made finding help extra difficult as of late.  If you are just starting out with problems, your primary doctor or ob-gyn might be a good place to start. In addition to doing an initial assessment, taking a history and prescribing medication, they can refer you to the appropriate mental health professional, if needed.

The obvious way to find providers is to check your health plan provider list. Consider those outside your area who offer teleheath services via the phone or computer. This could widen your options quite a bit. 

Seeing providers out of network or paying out of pocket may be other options to facilitate access to providers, which unfortunately are more costly and not possible for many people.  Although, some providers may offer a sliding-fee scale for those who are self pay that allows them to pay based on their personal income and what they can afford.

If you or your spouse are employed, you can check to see if your employer offers an Employee Assistance Plan (EAP) which is separate from the medical plan. Typically you can access counseling at no cost on a short-term basis. Check with your HR department. 

If you are a student, take advantage of any free campus or university resources.

Your local church might offer pastoral counseling from a trained clergyman or woman which is usually free.

Some teaching colleges and universities may offer low-cost therapy provided by grad students who are supervised while they gain counseling experience. If there is such a school in your area, contact the psychology or behavioral health department and inquire.

SAMHSA is a government organization that is the go-to resource for locating affordable mental health care nationwide. Contact them at 1-800-662-4357 or online https://findtreatment.samhsa.gov

Online therapy is another option with chats with actual therapists from places like Better Help, TalkSpace or 7 Cups.com.

Theravive is a resource directory you could investigate for low cost therapists by state. 

Open Counseling is another resource for attaining accessible care. The site indicates if providers are accepting new clients and many list their rates. 

Open Path connects low-cost therapists to patients. I think you pay a lifetime membership fee and then get access to discounted rates on therapy sessions in the future. 

You can also get professional help getting professional help by contacting NAMI support services. Call their helpline, 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) to find a chapter or services in your area. 

If your mental health puts you in an immediate crisis, help is always available by going straight to the hospital emergency room. All emergency rooms have access to psychiatric care. 

Are you having trouble accessing mental health services?  What are you doing about it?

Looking Back at Ten Years of Blogging at Write into the Light

Ten years ago today I posted my first blog here at Write into the Light. Ten years!  I feel like that is such a long time.  

I started off writing daily meditations because I couldn’t find any meditation books specifically written for people with mental illness or mental health issues. Over the years my writing has evolved from those meditations to journal-type entries and poems, to essays and opinion pieces, and finally, reports on mental health research articles. 

Regardless of the type of writing I post, all of it helps me process and cope with my own mental health symptoms and I hope helps others with the same. Writing has been one of my biggest coping skills when it comes to my mental illnesses, hence the name of this site. 

There were many months I was inactive and even full years where I only wrote a few blogs at most depending on my health status. Several times I almost closed the site down but I never did because even though I would go periods without writing, the stats showed that people were still viewing my posts on a daily basis.  And I thought, if the blog was helping someone by just being there then it was worth leaving up even if I wasn’t adding anything new to it at the time. 

Over the last 10 years I’ve written over 360 posts and have had over 44,000 visitors and 65,000 views. I have close to 900 readers on WordPress, a tad over 300 Twitter followers, 1200 and something Facebook fans, and 25 email subscribers. Definitely not a big outfit by any stretch of the imagination, but a small little part of the mental health community that I hope is contributing enough in a way that is making a difference in someone’s morning, afternoon, or evening every once in a while. 

I wonder who is out there who has been blogging for ten years or more. I am in contact with no one from my early days of blogging because their blogs have been dead for years and I miss some of them so much.  

I am happy to have found new bloggers throughout the years, however, and thank every one of you for taking the time to follow, read, like and comment on my posts. I appreciate you and always enjoy connecting with you. 

If you haven’t already, please follow this blog or subscribe via email and

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Back to Bipolar Basics

Bipolar is a mood disorder that is subdivided into two categories: bipolar I and bipolar II.

Bipolar I

Bipolar I is characterized by at least one manic episode often resulting in a hospitalization. “A manic episode is a period of abnormally elevated or irritable mood and high energy, accompanied by abnormal behavior that disrupts life.” (WebMD.com)

People with bipolar I also experience depression and often cycle between manic and depressive episodes.

Bipolar II

Bipolar type II is similar to bipolar I in the cyclical nature of moods, however, full mania is not reached but rather hypomanic moods are more common. Hypomania often feels good with increased energy and mood and productivity, but can include distractibility and irritability as well.

Unlike in full mania, hypomanic behaviors are not out of control. Overall, depression typically dominates bipolar type II moods.

Do you have bipolar I or bipolar II disorder? What is your experience with it?

What is a Mixed State in Bipolar Disorder?

dave-francis-Vs02NnPZbsI-unsplashBipolar disorder usually consists of moods alternating between extreme highs, or semi-highs in the case of hypomania, and extreme lows, with stabilized moods in between.  The highs can include symptoms such as:

  • Having lots of energy
  • Feeling high or wired
  • Having racing thoughts
  • Talking fast
  • Taking more risks
  • Needing less sleep than usual to feel rested
  • Having more distractions than usual
  • Having intense senses, such as smell and touch (Source: WebMD)

The lows can include symptoms such as:

  • Feeling sad, anxious, or empty
  • Feeling hopeless or pessimistic
  • Feeling guilty, worthless, or helpless
  • Not enjoying things you used to enjoy
  • Trouble with concentration, memory, or making decisions
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Appetite changes
  • Gaining or losing weight
  • Feeling restless or irritable
  • Thoughts of suicide or death (Source: WebMD)

A person experiencing a mixed episode is having symptoms from the highs and the lows at the same time or in rapid succession with no break in between.  This is a very disturbing type of episode to have and can cause much confusion and anxiety for the person.  The person can, for example, feel depressed and tired most of the day with no motivation or hope, but still feel compelled to act out impulsively with regards to sex or spending money at times.  They can be crying uncontrollably one minute and extremely happy the next.  This can go on for days, weeks, or months.

Treatment usually includes some form of medication.  Treatment by a doctor is definitely required as this is something that will not go away on its own and if left untreated carries an extremely high risk of ending in self-harm or suicide.  Mixed episodes in particular are even more at risk of suicide than straight bipolar mania or depressive episodes alone.

The good news is with medication management by a qualified doctor these episodes can be arrested and a safe, healthy, happy life can be attained even with a life-time diagnosis of bipolar disorder.  I am living proof of that.

Comments are always open for questions regarding my experience with bipolar disorder and how I’ve learned to manage and live positively with it after being diagnosed almost 15 years ago.

How to Know if You Have Depression and What to Do About It

How do you know if you are depressed besides the fact that you feel depressed? I’m talking “clinical depression.” The kind for which you need to seek professional help. The kind that if you let it go you may end up hurting yourself.

The kind that leaves you laying in bed most of the day wondering what the point of life is and how the hell you’re going to make it through another never ending insufferable day. A day that was just like yesterday; that will be just like tomorrow. One running into another like one long slow song playing in slow motion through quick sand under water on repeat.

According to the medical people there are several symptoms you need to have almost every day for two consecutive weeks to meet the criteria of being depressed. These include:

  • “Fatigue or loss of energy almost every day
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt almost every day
  • Impaired concentration, indecisiveness
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia (excessive sleeping) almost every day
  • Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in almost all activities nearly every day (called anhedonia, this symptom can be indicated by reports from significant others)
  • Restlessness or feeling slowed down
  • Recurring thoughts of death or suicide
  • Significant weight loss or gain (a change of more than 5% of body weight in a month)” (source WedMD)

If you have any of these symptoms please talk to your doctor about it. Depression is treatable. Many people take medication for it and many do not. Some go to therapy. Often people do both. You and your doctor will decide what the best course of action is for you.

Personally, I do both. I figure hit it with all we’ve got. What have I got to lose except some nasty symptoms that lead me to thinking about my own death. I can’t have that. I have a family. A life. A purpose for being here. We all do. You do!

Get the help you need if you think you have depression. You deserve it.

12 Ways to Decrease Holiday Stress

Let’s face it. Holidays are stressful. No matter how many years of experience we have going through them, no matter how far we plan ahead, and no matter how hard we try to cut back, the stress is there.

But, it doesn’t have to be an all in, freaking out kind of stress. Or a overwhelming, panicking, losing sleep kind of stress.

How about we shoot for the slightly uncomfortable feeling of having a few extra things on our to-do list for a few weeks and leave it at that kind of stress?

The following list may help you do just that. Good luck and happy holidays!

12 Ways to Decrease Holiday Stress

1. Make space for difficult feelings like grief.

2. Create your own holiday traditions.

3. Set realistic expectations for yourself and the holiday.

4. Stick to your self-care routine.

5. Give yourself permission to let it be a normal day.

6. Make a plan and try to stick to it. Staying organized is key.

7. Learn to say ‘no’ without feeling guilty.

8. Shop online and stick to a budget.

9. Set boundaries with family and friends.

10. Avoid excess alcohol.

11. Stay active with exercise.

12. Ask for help.

Resources: Eli’s Place, Health Point, Blessing Manifesting

10 Ways to Lower Stress

With the holidays bearing down on us I thought this would be a good time to talk about things we could do to lower our stress levels. Here are just several ideas.

  1. Breathe deeply
  2. Exercise
  3. Go for a walk
  4. Smell pleasant aromas
  5. Close your eyes and think of a happy moment
  6. Rub fingers together to take attention away from a negative thought
  7. Be in nature
  8. Call a drama-free person
  9. Drink chamomile tea
  10. Be grateful for life

What are some more ways you use to lower your stress?

Resource: no longer available

Writing for Mental Health

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There’s solid evidence that expressive writing can be good for your mental health.  I was planning on researching and quoting and referencing articles and telling you why and when and the how does it of it all, like this one: https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/boosting-your-mental-health-with-expressive-writing-0823185 but then I thought, you’re an adult.  You’ve got the internet.  I’m not going to reinvent the wheel and regurgitate other people’s articles, which by the way is one reason I hardly write here anymore.  I feel like, “Eh, it’s been said, why say it again.”

Anyway, you can look up why writing can be good for you.  What I am going to do in the meantime here is what is good for me:  write!  Not about my life.  No.  That is for my personal journal which is private.  Sorry.  Not that type of blog.

So, what am I going to write about then?  I have no fricking idea.  I’m still figuring this out.  But I have a book of prompts.  That could be helpful.  I also have a list of different types of journals that we could go through together.  I don’t know, what do you think?  Let’s see where this takes us.