How to Find Mental Health Resources for a Loved One

If someone you care about is struggling with depression, anxiety, or some other mental health condition, it's difficult to know how to ease their pain and sadness. Mental disorders are prevalent in the U.S., affecting tens of millions of individuals who have conditions that range from depression and generalized anxiety disorder to bipolar disorder. Unfortunately, only a fraction of sufferers these get treatment.

Helping a loved one tap into mental health resources can be frustrating to say the least, and if the individual is in denial about his condition, finding effective treatment for him gets even more complicated. If you aren't sure how to (or even whether) you should offer your assistance, here are some things to consider.

If you are worried about a friend or family member, try to calculate how long his symptoms have been apparent, says Sally Ratcliffe, LGSW, MSW, of Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. Everyone has a few bad days where they are weepy, sleeping and eating poorly, and just not themselves. Such feelings could be due to something situational, like the anniversary of a death, Ratcliffe says. "But if it's going on for more than two weeks, it could be a sign of clinical depression," she says. Keep in mind, she says, that men who need mental health resources are less likely to seek help than women.

If your friend or family member is having physical problems like insomnia, nausea or headaches, suggest that he get in touch with their primary care provider to make sure it's nothing physical that is causing symptoms. "The doctor will do a medical assessment to rule out common problems that can mimic conditions like anxiety," says David Sack, MD., addiction psychiatrist and CEO of Promises Treatment Centers. If no physical condition is found, a primary care physician may be able to provide a referral to a qualified therapist, he says. Your doctor may even prescribe medication such as an antidepressant, Sack says. "Some 70% of antidepressants are now prescribed by primary care physicians," he says.

If the person's doctor feels that therapy is needed, he may advise getting in touch with the insurance company. "There is usually a number for substance abuse and mental health," Radcliffe says. "You can get a list of providers by zip code."

When someone is really anxious or depressed, just making a call to get help can seem daunting. An offer to help can allay the individual's fears. If you're not sure where to look for help, the National Alliance of Mental Illness ( may be able to provide you with support and information, Ratcliffe says.

In the Yellow Pages, you can also look under mental health, health, social services, crisis intervention services, hospitals, or hot lines. If there is an imminent crisis with a loved one, seek help at the local emergency room. While it's not a longterm solution, a doctor there may be able to offer temporary help and tell you where and how to get further help.


"Statistics." National Institute of Mental Health.

"Finding help for mental illness." National Institute of Mental Help.