How Do I Get Help?

A Guide for Youth

(This information is also available in a printable file.)

Be curious about mental health treatment.

Congratulations! By being on this web site you are taking an important first step towards finding help for mental health concerns you may have for yourself or your friends and family.

Decide if you (or someone you care about) need a full mental health assessment.

The term “mental health assessment” is a way of describing the process of a person talking to a mental health professional (often a therapist) and explaining how they are feeling while the therapist compares their information to the standards of the assessment.  The provider will then let the person know what areas need to be worked on.  This mental health assessment may be called a comprehensive diagnostic assessment (CDA). The same person who completes the mental health assessment may also use other tools, such as the Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths (CANS) which is part of Youth Empowerment Services (YES).

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Find out if you have insurance with mental health benefits.

  • If you don’t already have a copy of your insurance card, you will need to ask your parent or guardian to take a look at it.
  • Once you have a copy of the insurance card you will know if you have Medicaid or private insurance (for this example that would be any insurance that is not Medicaid). You will find some numbers on the front (usually an ID number and/or a group number) that tell the insurance company what coverage you have.  On the back there is usually a phone number to call and possibly a web address.
    • You can call the member number on the back of the card, or
    • You can go to the website to see if you can find answers to your questions.
  • You will need to contact your insurance company (either by calling or visiting their website) to find out what mental health benefits you have and to find a list of providers.
    • If you call, it is possible that they will want you to enter your member ID number before you talk to a person. If you do not have it, or do not know which number they want, follow the prompt to talk to an operator, or press zero.
    • If you did not already enter your member ID number, the first person you speak to will ask for it.  They may also ask you to give them the primary cardholder’s name. If you have private insurance, this is the person who has the insurance benefit, usually from their job.  If you have Medicaid, this is likely you.
      • If you do not have the information they ask you, don’t worry, just ask them to look you up by your name, address, and birthday.
  • Once they have pulled up your account, you can ask them to tell you what your mental health benefits are.  Some good questions include:
    • Do I need a referral from my primary care physician to see a therapist or a psychiatrist? (A primary care physician (sometimes known as a PCP) is your family doctor or pediatrician, the one you would see if you had an ear ache.)
    • How many visits am I allowed each year?
    • How do I find a provider in my area?
    • Do I have coverage for prescriptions? (It is possible that the company that you use for medical/mental health insurance may not be the company that covers prescriptions.  If that is the case, your parent or guardian should have a second insurance card for the prescription coverage.)
  • It is normal for the person on the end of the phone to ask you questions about who you are, what your needs are, and how to get in touch with you. They do this to make sure they are giving you accurate information and can call you back in case the call is dropped.
  • It is also normal to be transferred a few times before you get all of your questions answered. Sometimes there is a prompt to leave your number so they can call you back.  They do this so that someone who specializes in your question can call you.

Once you understand what services are available to you, you will need to make an appointment to see a mental health provider.

  • If you are not sure who you should see, going to your family doctor first may be a good place to start.  You can ask them to help you find a mental health provider to work with you.
  • Make sure to schedule an appointment for when you and your parent or guardian are available and have transportation.
    • You may want to include a parent or guardian in the process of scheduling the appointment so you are sure you can get there.
  • When scheduling the appointment, be sure to ask what you need to have with you.  They will likely ask you to bring your insurance card, your identification, and a parent or guardian. Each provider will have forms you need to fill out. Sometimes they have those forms online so you can fill them out ahead of time and bring them with you.
  • When you get to your appointment remember that this person is there to help you.  Be honest about how you are feeling, and ask question about anything you don’t understand.

Be consistent with your care.  

  • Once you start seeing a provider, be consistent with your appointments and follow the directions they give you, and ask questions if you don’t understand.  If you have questions or concerns between appointments be sure to call their office and leave a message so that they can get back to you.

Taking charge of your mental health is a huge step towards wellness!