How to Be Your Own Mental Health Care Advocate
When you’re struggling with any perinatal mood or anxiety disorder you need to be your own mental health care advocate to get the best possible care.
Being an advocate might sound overwhelming, but it’s an important part of finding the right help. Think of it as simply asking for what you need and being actively involved in getting that resource.
Health care providers can’t help you if you’re not explicitly clear on the symptoms you’re experiencing. You’ll also need to share information about how you respond to treatments like medication or therapy.
Good communication with your doctor, nurse, psychologist or other provider is the cornerstone to an effective working relationship. Research shows that patients who are more active and engaged in their health care end up doing better.
Your goal is to get feeling better as fast as possible, and being your own advocate is one way of helping the process.
To be an effective advocate for your mental health you can use these five strategies.
Prepare Yourself in Advance
Make sure that in advance of any appointment with a health care provider that you take time to prepare.
Make notes in your phone about what kind of symptoms you’re having and how they’re impacting your ability to function. It can be scary to be open and honest about how you’re feeling, but it’s a crucial first step.
Be prepared to share as much as possible with your provider in order to help them work with you to develop an effective treatment strategy. If you’re feeling really anxious, take your partner or a trusted friend or family member with you to help you have these conversations.
This is especially helpful if you’re having a hard time concentrating or communicating from anxiety, a lack of sleep, or feeling of total overwhelm.
Go in with Questions
Being your own advocate means that you’re not just listening to your provider, but you’re asking questions and engaging in a conversation.
Prior to an appointment prepare three questions that you bring with you. These should focus on things that concern you the most or that you feel like you need more information about.
For example, it could be questions about breastfeeding and anti-depressants or the use of cannabis for anxiety.
Most appointments are short and providers are rushed, so going in with questions prepared in advance will help to make the most of the time you have.
Keep Your Own Records
It can be difficult to keep track of important information from your appointments with various providers. In order to make this easier, plan to keep notes from each appointment that you can share with other providers.
Many providers keep electronic copies of your records and you have the right to access that information. Consider asking for copies of all files from your provider to keep at home.
By having this information at your finger tips you can easily review it. You can then share it with a new doctor or therapist easily.
Ask for a Second Opinion
A lot of us are uncomfortable with the idea of challenging a health care provider’s initial diagnosis or treatment plan, but this is an important part of being your own advocate.
If you’ve been working with a doctor for a while and still aren’t feeling any better, it’s time to ask for a second opinion.
It could be that you need more specialized care or would benefit from working with someone that understands mental health care better.
Be prepared that there could be a waiting list for specialized services, so research your options and have a back up plan in place.
Understand Your Health Insurance
Take the time to review your health insurance and know what it covers. It’s important to understand its limitations so that you don’t end up with unexpected health care costs.
If you need help understanding the terms and conditions, speak directly with the insurance provider.
Make sure you’re clear on what medications are covered, the types of therapy that may be included and what any out-of pocket expenses or deductibles you’re responsible for.
By using these five strategies you can be your own mental health care advocate. Though it may feel exhausting, having control over the process of getting the help you need can be empowering.
Don’t let reactions or responses from providers deter you. Keep going until you find the right care from the right provider. You’ve got this, Mama.