What To Do When Waiting for Mental Health Services

June 18, 2013 Becky Oberg

When Delay is Deadly

When I was kicked out of the Army due to my mental illness, they gave me a 30-day supply of medication, a list of mental health services in Indianapolis and a "good luck, ex-soldier Oberg". Unfortunately, it was going to take three months to get in to see a psychiatrist. I've since found that other people have the same problem--it's so common that has an article about what to do while waiting for mental health services in their mental health library. So, here's what to do when waiting for mental health services.

Communicate With Your Mental Health Services Provider

If your provider has a cancellation list, ask to be put on it. Basically this means that if somebody cancels their appointment, you can take that time slot. This often means you can get in faster.

Let your provider know what your symptoms are and if they're getting worse. Like the emergency room, it's all about triage. The sickest people get seen first. While symptoms may be problematic to the individual, if the provider does not consider said symptoms urgent, the individual waits for services. Sometimes months.

If you need medication right away, talk to your family doctor. When I got out of the Army, my family doctor wrote prescriptions for my psychiatric medications until I could get in to see a psychiatrist. Your family doctor can also advocate for you to be seen sooner.

Explore Other Mental Health Treatment Options

While your insurance may only cover certain providers, this should not discourage you from seeking other options. There are several alternatives or temporary options. For example, you may be able to access low-cost care at a university or a seminary.

Let those around you know that you are waiting for treatment. Pastors, family members and friends can often be a source of support in the interim. Support groups are also an option. Your provider might know of a good support group to rely on while you're waiting for your first appointment. You can also dial 211 or go to

If things get too bad, consider contacting a crisis hotline or chatline. While not a substitute for meeting with your provider, it can serve as a bandage while you wait for treatment.

If you're suicidal or homicidal, contact your provider right away or go to a hospital emergency room.

Advocate For Better Access to Care

Sometimes there's nothing to do but suck it up and wait. Does it make you angry? Then advocate for change!

Hospitals, especially public hospitals, are often underfunded. Sadly, mental health budgets are often on the cutting block. Contact your state representatives and let them know this is unacceptable. Demand better (or adequate) funding for your city's mental health support system.

Another thing to advocate for is coverage of medication. In some states and insurance policies, coverage of medication is related to cost-effectiveness. This backfires because it prevents individuals from accessing a medication that is working for their case, and it results in increased emergency care and increased inpatient hospitalization. Advocate that all medications be covered, not just the ones that turn a profit.

Yet another thing to do is advocate for care for the indigent. In Indianapolis, there are only seven beds available for emergency psychiatric care for the indigent. Those beds are almost always full. As a result, the largest provider for mental health services is the Marion County Jail. The rich go to a private hospital. The poor go to jail or emergency room.

What are your ideas? Leave a comment below to start the discussion.

APA Reference
Oberg, B. (2013, June 18). What To Do When Waiting for Mental Health Services, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 21 from

Author: Becky Oberg

needs help for husband
October, 5 2014 at 7:44 pm

I have been looking for help for my husband. He has Huntington disease and he is dying. He has severe explosive meltdowns and has had for years. Hes been arrested for d/v while the police told me that he would get the help he needs. He didnt get ANY help. I cant find him help anywhere

June, 20 2013 at 6:51 am

Along with the above, I've called once daily. One time when I called, there was an appointment available due to a cancellation for the very next day!

June, 18 2013 at 2:08 pm

All of what I just read above, angers me. All talk and no action. People talk out of both sides of their mouth. Ready to diagnose and put you on the newest and most expensive drug but no real treatment for those who are truly ill.

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