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Can You Afford to Ignore Your Emotional Health? Part 2

In part 1 of our series, we looked at why emotional health is important, and why we should value it as part of our daily life and our budget. In part 2, let’s take a closer look at some solutions that we can use to manage the challenges of staying emotionally healthy on a limited income.

There are certainly barriers to mental and emotional health that make it difficult for many people to get the support and assistance they need. Though Americans spend Billions of dollars annually on mental health treatment, it is still common for issues to go undetected, untreated and unmedicated, especially in lower income demographics or in minority populations. In fact, for individuals living under the poverty line, lack of resources may be a major contributing factor to mental health issues. Reed Jordan wrote in Poverty’s Toll on Mental Health, “One of the most insidious effects of living in high-poverty, chronically disadvantaged neighborhoods is the severe strain these areas have on residents’ mental and emotional health. New research shows that poverty imposes a psychological burden so great that the poor are left with little mental “bandwidth” with which to perform everyday tasks.”

Potential Barriers to Mental Health Treatment

  • Financial Obstacles
  • Geographic obstacles -- not being in close proximity to a resource for help
  • Complex and costly health insurance or lack of insurance coverage for mental health treatment
  • Stigma of mental health treatment
  • Lack of support from family or friends

Knowing that there are barriers, what can we do, especially on a limited budget, to make sure we prioritize our mental and emotional health?  If you need mental health attention and you can’t afford it, the last thing you should do is nothing. Here’s a list of some resources that can be helpful.

Counseling/Therapy Options:

  • Federally funded Local health centers  can be an excellent resource for those without health insurance or who are on a limited budget. Often, you only pay what you can afford, based on your income. Many of these centers include mental health services. Find a federally funded health center near you. I entered my home zip code and came up with a list within 10 miles of various options to investigate.
  • Some universities offer free or low-cost therapy. You can call the psychology, psychiatry, or behavioral health department and inquire about sessions with graduate students. Typically they are supervised and can provide services at a lower cost as they gain counseling experience.
  • There is an excellent article titled What to Do When You Can’t Afford Therapy by Kimberly Morrow, LCSW that provides useful information . Check it out and put some of the suggestions to use.
  • Look for private free clinics or mental health centers that offer a sliding scale.
  • Some providers offer group therapy as a more affordable alternative to one-on-one sessions.
  • If you meet income guidelines, you may be eligible for Medicaid, which does include mental health treatment costs; eligibility and services provided vary by state.
  • Consider a lower- cost online alternative to traditional, face to face therapy. Providers like TalkSpace offer one on one counseling with a licensed therapy online in a variety of formats including chat and video calls. While these are not “low-cost” alternatives for many budgets, (there is a monthly fee) it may be significantly cheaper than what you could afford otherwise and can provide daily contact with a therapist instead of bi-weekly or monthly appointments. You can also save money by not having to travel to appointments or take time off of work to accommodate your sessions.

Alternatives to Counseling:

There are a variety of apps, websites, and forums listed in this excellent article: 81 Awesome Mental Health Resources When You Can’t Afford a Therapist, that can provide some emotional and mental support. They are not intended to replace traditional counseling, medical treatment or medication when it is needed, but they can ease the weight of the daily stressors of life and some of the challenges we face. Here are a few to consider:

  • ACT Coach -- ACT Coach teaches users how to tolerate negative thoughts and feelings by virtually guiding them through awareness exercises and giving tips on how to ditch self-doubt. With an extra focus on mindfulness, this app also provides a log to track your progress. (Free; iOS)
  • Breathe2Relax -- Sometimes, all we need to de-stress is take a few deep breaths. Created by the National Center for Telehealth and Technology, this app teaches users how to do diaphragmatic breathing. Features include educational videos on the stress response, logs to record stress levels, and customizable guided breathing sessions. (Free; iOS and Android)
  • Happify -- Want to kick negative thoughts, nix worry, and dial down stress? The array of engaging games, activity suggestions, and gratitude prompts makes Happify a useful shortcut to a good mood. Designed with input from 18 health and happiness experts, Happify’s positive mood-training program is psychologist approved. Even cooler? Its website links to bonus videos that are sure to make you smile. (Free; iOS)
  • MindShift -- This straightforward stress management tool helps users re-think what’s stressing them out through a variety of on-screen prompts. At the same time, the app encourages new ways to take charge of anxiety and tune into body signals. (Free; iOS and Andriod)
  • -- The main goal of this government-sponsored resource: Educate as many people as possible about the realities of mental illness in America while offering resources to those seeking help. Consider this your go-to site for a rundown on what mental health disorders look like. It also includes information on how to get help, support someone you love, or start a dialog about mental health in your community.
  • OK2Talk : Designed for teens and young adults with mental illness, this site offers an online outlet for people to come forward with their own stories, find support, and discuss the diagnoses they may have received. OK2Talk comes with plenty of motivational posts and mantras as well. And one quick look at the site will tip you off that, whatever you’re struggling with, you’re most certainly not alone.


Addiction and Support Groups:

These are just a few of the many resources that are available to help you live a healthier, happier life and get the support you may need to overcome a variety of challenges.

If you are experiencing financial difficulty and are looking for a solution, non-profit credit counseling can help you make sense of all your options. Contact us today for a free financial assessment with one of our certified credit counselors.


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