Depression and Independence: Your Personal Bill of Rights
The fourth of July conjures many images such as picnics, fireworks, and parades. The central theme of our celebration is independence. Most people equate independence with some sort of freedom. But for those who suffer from any type of mood disorder, freedom and independence may seem to be esoteric terms with no practical meaning. There are many people with a mood disorder or other mental illness who may feel that they have been robbed of their independence by not only their mood disorder but by the very system which is supposed to help them. In this post we are going to explore how to achieve personal freedom and independence despite your depression. Awareness of your rights as an individual with a mood disorder is the first step towards such freedom. We are going to outline some of these rights as well as provide resources to assist you in your goal of independence.
Please Note: We are not responsible for the content or information provided by the following links. It is up to you to judge the usefulness or functionality of any of the resources given.
1. You have the right to seek support.
It may seem contradictory to speak about independence and getting support from others. Yet this social support is exactly what can help you to get on your feet and feel strong enough to battle your depression. There are many people just like you who have been through this to give you the support you need. In addition to MyDepressionConnection and BipolarConnect there are numerous on-line support groups for mood disorders as well as local meet-ups. Here are just a couple of links to get you started.
- The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is one of the largest mental health organizations devoted to providing information and support to people with mental illness and their loved ones and family. They offer an information hotline and referral service which can be reached by calling 1 (800) 950-NAMI (6264), Monday through Friday, 10 am- 6 pm, Eastern time. In addition NAMI has local chapters where you can physically meet up with others who are also affected by mental illness.
- The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) is yet another excellent resource for anyone who is battling either depression or Bipolar Disorder. They offer on-line support groups which meet at selected times. In addition this organization offers information to find local DBSA chapters in your area.
2. You have the right to seek treatment.
One of the worst feelings associated with depression is the feeling of being trapped. You may wonder things such as, "When is this going to end?" or "How am I going to make it through another day of this?" The good news is that there is help and there is treatment for depression so that you can regain your independence and sense of freedom. Here are some resources to help.
- The Psychology Today website offers a Therapy Directory for all fifty states. Just plug in your city or zipcode and a huge list will come up of therapists. You can narrow your search by the type of therapy you wish to have such as psychoanalytic vs. cognitive behavioral therapy. You can even check ahead to see which therapists will take your particular insurance.
- The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Locator (SAMHSA) will help you to locate all the mental health facilities and treatment centers in your geographic area.
- For those who don’t have insurance: It is a sad truth that not everyone has the money or insurance to pay for mental health treatment. But there may be other ways you can still receive mental health services. I have written two posts on this topic filled with links to possible resources. Please keep in mind that we are not responsible for verifying whether or not these resources will be of personal use to you. You may need to make numerous phone calls and spend hours of your own time in researching your best options.
3. You have the right to be your own mental health advocate.
There are many government laws and policies which affect your ability to obtain mental health services. Some of the larger goals of mental health activists are to ensure the rights of people with mental illness to be able to obtain adequate housing, education, and employment so that they can become fully integrated into society. Every time you advocate for your own right to receive quality care in all sectors of life, you are also a trailblazer for others who are facing the same challenges. Becoming politically aware and active is one way to promote freedom for you and others with a mental illness or mood disorder. The following resources may help you to get started.
- The Bazelton Center for Mental Health Law provides up-to-date information about how the newest laws and policies may affect your mental health care. They will provide you with action alerts so that you may respond to currently proposed legislation which may threaten the rights or care of people with mental illness and their families.
- The National Conference of State Legislatures outlines the latest state laws mandating or regulating mental health benefits. The also provide publications such as Mental Health Financing in the United States and Medicaid Policy Options for Meeting the Needs of Adults with Mental Illness Under the Affordable Care Act.
These are just some of your rights as a patient with a mental illness or mood disorder. Independence requires responsibility. As much as we may feel like a victim of our depression or even the system we are still responsible for our mental wellness. We do have choices although we may not see them. Being aware of your personal power to change your circumstance is critical for recovery. Each small step you take to help yourself is a step towards freedom.
We would like to hear from you. Do you feel that depression has lessened your independence or freedom in any way? How have you managed? What steps will you take to increase your personal independence?