Talking about mental health with someone you trust is hard enough. Having that same talk with someone you barely know? Uncomfortable doesn’t even begin to cover it.
Here’s the catch, though: In order to learn about your insurance benefits, choose a doctor and — if necessary — take time off to get help, you might find you need to open up to strangers at some point.
How can you approach those conversations? Start with these tips.
With Your Insurance Company
After deciding to get help, the first call you make might be to your insurance carrier to learn about your benefits.
Think of this as a “business as usual” call. You don’t need to go into detail about symptoms. Just prepare basic questions about your coverage:
- Does my plan have mental health benefits? How can I access them?
- Do I need pre-authorization before using those benefits?
- How can I find mental health providers in my network?
- What happens if I choose a provider out of my network? How can I file an out-of-network claim?
- Does my policy offer telemedicine access for mental health?
Know that the person on the other end of the line is a professional who’s trained to field calls in all areas of wellness — mental health included. It’s their job to help you, not judge you.
With Your Doctor
When you start talking to providers, they’ll want to know about your symptoms, challenges and goals. They may even go through some screening questions, so get ready for that conversation by assessing your situation yourself first. Prepare yourself for questions like these from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration:
- What symptoms and feelings have you been experiencing?
- When did they start? What triggers them?
- How have those symptoms and feelings affected your daily life, eating habits or sleep?
- What would you like to achieve through treatment?
- Do you have a family history of mental struggles, such as anxiety or depression?
- Do you have any other health issues, like a heart condition or chronic disease?
For your part, prepare some questions to ask them, too. Useful ones might include:
- What’s your approach to treatment?
- What can I expect from these visits?
- How often should I expect to see you?
- Do you prescribe medication?
- How much do you charge for your services? Are there payment plans?
- Are you in my network? If not, do you help file out-of-network claims?
With Your Employer
You may never need to disclose your mental health issue to your boss — and if you’d rather not, that’s OK. But according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), you may choose to talk about it when requesting special accommodations or asking for time off to recharge or get help.
To get started, NAMI offers these tips:
- Know your rights for accommodations and time off through the Family and Medical Leave Act.
- Think about what you need to do your job duties as well as you can. Flexible schedules? More breaks? Tuesday afternoons off to see your therapist? Write those requests down and why you think they’ll help.
- Ask your mental health provider to give you a written notice to help support your accommodation request.
- Bring that notice and your request to your company’s HR department, if they have one.
- Prepare for a negotiation. If the company can’t offer a work-from-home option, for example, would a flexible schedule help instead?
Know You’re Not Alone
Still feeling nervous? Start with a support group. That way, you can hear stories from peers about their struggles and how they’re talking about them to get the help they need. Use the Anxiety and Depression Association of America‘s online tool to find one near you.
Along the way, you’ll learn you’re not alone: According to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, nearly 1 in 2 adults will have a mental health disorder at some point. Let’s start talking about it.