This roundup of resources can help lead you in the right direction and break down obstacles that may have held you back from seeking help in the past.
Since getting its start in March, the coronavirus pandemic has continued (yup, still happening) to sweep the nation, impacting quite literally every facet of life as we know—well, knew—it. And our mental health is no exception. In fact, a third of Americans report currently feeling symptoms of anxiety or depression, according to a U.S. Census Bureau survey. That’s more than three times the rate from a similar study done in 2019.
If you think back to March—you know, the days when “coronavirus” was still a fairly new term in the collective vernacular and toilet paper was nowhere to be found—the heightened mental health challenges and instabilities seem to make sense. After all, all of those sudden, abrupt, and radical changes leaving many to feel out of control, a known trigger for stress as well as mental illnesses. Since then, as we tried to adapt to this “new normal,” we’ve moved from acute stress to chronic, persistent, arguably more destabilizing stress, according to Terri Bacow, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in New York City.
“We settled into a very unrelenting period of quarantine where we were essentially stuck dealing with the profound fallout almost perpetually,” says Bacow. “The unprecedented stress of being an essential worker, of unemployment with an unforeseeable end, of never-ending oversight of remote school, of intense grief at the loss of a loved one(s), the list goes on.”
In addition to the endless repetition, loss of control, utter lack of variety, social isolation—all of which worsen depression, says Bacow—there were also truly tragic (and still rising) losses of loved ones, of jobs, of previous ways of life. And then came more: The unjust deaths of Breonna Taylor, Ahmed Arbery, George Floyd, among far too many countless others from the Black community throughout the decades in America. The same community that continues to be disproportionately affected by COVID-19, btw. Racial tensions skyrocketed and the ongoing fight for long-overdue, justice and equality only worsens our mental health—especially for those experiencing the racism first- and second-hand. (Never mind the fact that systematic racism, a public health crisis, has been wreaking havoc on innocent minds for years.)
And now, as some states are gradually re-opening, others face rising coronavirus cases, and with that, another crop of mental health challenges (i.e. social anxiety) coming into the play. TL;DR—access to affordable, quality mental health care has seemingly never been so important. And, thankfully, there is a gamut of organizations, trained professionals, and institutions out there providing free mental health services that you can turn to amidst everything we’ve dealing with now and in the cute.
Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA)
For most people, learning about the components of mental challenges and illness—how they function, what the symptoms look like, how to recognize them, etc.—is essential for working through their mental health challenges. “It gives people a better sense of empowerment and control,” says Bacow. “And mental health thrives when we have or at least feel like we have control over our circumstances.” And now thanks to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) you can score an A+ psychoeducation for free. The nonprofit offers monthly webinars hosted by mental health professionals that you can watch whenever and however (after all, quarantine often calls for loungewear and no-bra) on YouTube. Hosted by mental health professionals, these videos range in topic from explainers on, say, psychological-trauma to timely discussions, such as “OCD, COVID, & Return to Life.”
Lost your job? You’re not alone. In fact, since March millions of Americans have filed for unemployment. While knowing that you’re in good company might help alleviate the sting of a sudden lay-off, being unemployed and facing financial hardships can still be quite the burden on your brain. To help lighten that stressful load, Headspace is offering all unemployed people in the U.S. (and U.K.) a free, one-year subscription to Headspace Plus, which includes over 40 courses of themed meditations (sleep, mindful eating, etc.), plenty of one-off exercises to add more mindfulness to your day, and so much more.
And most recently, the folks behind the app launched a collection of meditations specifically dedicated to “living through unemployment,” including guided sessions on adapting to sudden change, coping with sadness and loss, and recovering confidence. Anyone eligible can register at the Headspace website by providing a few details about your recent employment.
Therapy for Black Girls
Founded by licensed psychologist Joy Harden Bradford, Ph.D., Therapy for Black Girls is an online space dedicated to destigmatizing mental health care and helping Black women find their ideal practitioner. Through the organization’s eponymous podcast and social media platforms, Harden Bradford (aka Dr. Joy) provides support, actionable tips, and expert-backed resources to help Black women better their mental wellness. She’s also built a free, easily accessible directory packed with with varying costs.
Although it’s no longer offering a month of cost-free therapy to healthcare workers (spots filled up fast), the popular online therapy app has found other ways to provide free mental health services. Case in point? Talkspace’s coronavirus-centric Instagram channel where licensed therapists respond to users’ questions and “concerns related to the coronavirus outbreak and relevant topics (anxiety, loneliness, fear, working from home),” according to the brand’s site. Talkspace has also created a private, BIPOC therapist-moderated support group on Facebook for Talkspace users and non-users affected by racial trauma.
Crisis Text Line
This free, 24/7 text hotline has been helping people across the country (as well as those in Canada and England) “move from a hot moment to a cool calm,” according to the company’s website. How, exactly? It all starts with, well, a text: Within minutes of sending a simple “hello” to 741741 (if you’re in the U.S.), you’ll be connected to a live, trained crisis counselor who will help you work through your feelings by asking questions, and reflecting on the information you share with the goal of getting you to a safe, calm place. Texting convos can last anywhere from 15-to 45-minutes and end only when you and the counselor both feel comfortable with your (hopefully!) cooler state.
Coronavirus Online Therapy
Therapy, whether virtually or IRL, can be quite costly—and that’s exactly why a collective of therapists joined forces at the start of the pandemic to create Coronavirus Online Therapy. This free mental health service is designed to connect essential workers in need with licensed therapists nationwide who have agreed to reduce their fees and/or offer pro-bono sessions to front-line workers and their families. If you qualify, fill out this online form with the necessary information, such as your state, health insurance, if applicable, and the highest fee, if any, you could afford (options range from free to $50 per session).
The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation
Since early April, The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation (BLH)—which, btw, Taraji P. Henson founded in honor of her father—has been offering free mental health services to BIPOC as part of their COVID-19 Free Virtual Therapy campaign. The goal is to provide minority communities the much-needed and deserved opportunity to work through any “life-changing event(s) related to or triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic” and/or experiences caused by “injustice against people of color”—all without having to worry about the cost. While registration is currently closed, the organization says to keep an eye out for updates coming soon.
If MyIntent sounds familiar, that’s probably because it is… In 2013, Chris Pan founded MyIntent, a movement dedicated to “making self-care and inner-work exciting, enjoyable, and accessible for all,” according to the company’s site. His first project? Bracelets that feature a word that best represents your intentions (i.e. “authentic” for Katy Perry, “faith” for Katie Couric). While the celeb-favorite jewelry is still for sale, Pan recently started another project: MyIntent LIVE, an online space that offers guided Zoom sessions on breathwork, meditation, journaling, among other brain-benefiting exercises. Check out the online schedule to learn more about the daily offerings and sign up for those of interest.
When dealing with mental health challenges and illnesses, it’s oftentimes hard to remember that you are not alone (at least it’s been for me). Add into the mix social isolation (thanks @ coronavirus pandemic) and you’re likely feeling even more sequestered and solo. Enter: Inclusive Therapists, a mental health community with a feed full of those much-needed reminders that you are, in fact, not alone. Their grid is composed of valuable mental health-related wisdom, encouraging quotes, and profiles on mental health practitioners—many of whom offer reduced-fee teletherapy and are included in their online directory.
Real to the People
Membership-based mental health organization, Real, launched Real to the People in March 2020, offering free teletherapy sessions to help people cope with the COVID-19 pandemic. Fast forward a few months to June, Real to the People—essentially Real’s rapid response arm—pivoted to offer free mental health services (think: group therapy sessions, discussions) in light of the most recent police brutality cases. And today, Real to the People is holding weekly virtual events on topics such as “facing your imposture syndrome.”