You’re doing the right thing to express concern for yourself and your health. None of us would think twice about seeking assistance if we suspected a broken bone, and mental health issues should be no different. Rather than continuing to suffer from untreated depression and thoughts of suicide, you are doing the right thing in wanting to seek help.
Let me first provide you crisis information before I address seeking non-emergency mental health assistance. If you believe you are in crisis (meaning you pose an imminent danger to yourself), immediately call 911 (emergency services) for life-saving assistance. If for some reason you cannot do that, have someone else do it for you.
Other resources include the crisis numbers listed below. If you’re someone who tends to feel depressed, please be proactive by keeping these numbers with you in case you find yourself in a very dark place emotionally in the future and need to reach out to a trained volunteer counselor 24/7 to talk, text, or chat about your feelings. It could save your life.
1) National Hopeline Network 1.800.SUICIDE (1.800.784.2433)
If you or someone you know are depressed and considering suicide, call the National Hopeline Network at 1.800.SUICIDE (1.800.784.2433). Your call is free and confidential. Or chat live with a crisis volunteer at http://hopeline.com/.
2) National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1.800.273.TALK (8255)
Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to talk with a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area. Available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
3) Crisis Text Line Number 741741
If you're in crisis and prefer to text rather than call, then here's a confidential crisis text line staffed nationally by trained counselors in suicide prevention. Text "HOME" to 741741 from anywhere in the United States.
If you’re not currently in crisis and interested about a longer-term solution, you can start by asking your family doctor for their recommendations on a clinical psychologist or psychiatrist. (Other options include a counseling psychologist, licensed clinical social worker, psychiatric health nurse, or a mental health counselor. However, these might not meet your needs because of one or more reasons: 1) they tend to concentrate on specific problems rather than therapy, 2) work under the direction of a psychologist or psychiatrist, or 3) focus less on serious mental health issues than everyday problems and decisions such as family and marital conflict or stress management.)
Let your family doctor guide you. With the severity of the depression that you describe, you very well may have a biochemical imbalance but may also need talk therapy to address the issues that contributed to your prior cutting, previous suicide attempt, grief following your grandfather’s death, and ongoing depression.
A psychiatrist is a licensed physician who views mental/behavioral health through the lens of medicine. Some conditions, such as ADHD, depression, or anxiety can be managed very well with the introduction of an appropriate medicine. Psychiatrists can prescribe such medicine whereas in most states a licensed psychologist cannot. (New Mexico, Iowa, Illinois, Iowa, the military, and several other locations provide do provide prescription rights to clinical psychologists who have met certain qualifications). One may be surprised, however, that there often isn’t a lot of “talk” time with a psychiatrist. A clinical psychologist specializes in talk therapy and mental/behavioral health. They can help you with behaviors and thoughts that aren’t healthy, allowing you to learn new coping skills and perspectives that are more adaptive. Often, the two specialties work in tandem in the best interests of their clients.
Bottom line is: start with your family doctor. I’m glad you are being proactive. Take care of yourself, and know that you’re not alone. Many people have been through deep depression and come out on the other side.
Don’t keep this to yourself either. Share it with confidantes – friends, and family – so that you have a social network that is informed of where you are emotionally in your life. They can’t be your safety net if you haven’t shared how you are feeling.