I have depression, and in the past have been hospitalized multiple times for attempting suicide. I don't have insurance; how can I get medication?

Unfortunately, your question is a common one. Access to medication treatment has two parts: access to a doctor who can prescribe effective medication and access to the medication itself.

About access to a doctor: Most communities do have public or taxpayer-supported clinics that provide general medical care and mental health care. Sometimes both services are combined in single place, and sometimes they are separate. If you already have a medication plan that works for you, then it may be appropriate for a primary care or general medical doctor to continue and monitor your medications. But if your medication is complicated, or if it needs to be re-evaluated or changed, then it’s probably best to see a psychiatrist.

About access to medications: Many of the medications used to treat depression and bipolar disorder are now available in generic form, so paying for them out of pocket often costs only a few dollars a month. You should certainly ask if the medications you take are available as generics, and you should shop around for the best price. For the medications that are not yet available in generic form, many manufacturers often have patient assistance programs to supply free or low-cost medications to people who have no insurance coverage for medications.

Finally, the Affordable Care Act may make it easier for you to get affordable health insurance that covers mental health treatment. In many states, the income limit for Medicaid insurance has increased so that more people are eligible. In all states, there are new subsidies to reduce the cost of health insurance for low- and middle-income people. And all of these new insurance programs are required to cover mental health treatment just like any other kind of health care. DBSA fought many years so that people who live with mood disorders would be treated equally and fairly.

About the Doc

About the Doc

Greg Simon, MD, MPH, is a psychiatrist and researcher at  Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle. His research focuses on improving the quality and availability of mental health services for people living with mood disorders, and he has a specific interest in activating consumers to expect and demand more effective mental health care.