For those of us with mental illness, this is a great time to be alive. Until the 1950s, there were no medications to help us. Treatment in the past consisted of lifetime institutionalization, being dunked in cold water, electroshock therapy (still in use, though they use less voltage now), exorcism (because people believed the mentally ill were demon possessed), and other objectionable and cruel practices. Today, things are much better. We have medications to treat mental illnesses. They aren’t perfect, as most medications treat only some symptoms and they can have unpleasant side effects. But medications have been a major advance in the treatment of mental illness, especially when you consider the primitive treatments people used to be subjected to.

Of course, meds. don’t help if you can’t afford them. Some are very expensive, especially the newer meds. that are not yet available in generic versions. For instance, a friend of mine told me a few years ago that his Abilify (an antipsychotic that is sometimes used as an adjunct to help antidepressants work better) was $400 per month, and a client recently told me her biweekly antipsychotic injection was $300 per shot. Being mentally ill can be expensive! Compound the expense of some of the meds. with the fact that many of we mentally ill people are unable to work and many of us lack health insurance, and this is a real problem for us, our families, and society as a whole. We mentally ill are more likely to be homeless than the general population and many of us go to jail or prison due to our mental illnesses, especially when untreated.

So what’s a mentally ill person who needs medication to do? Fortunately, there are options. You can ask your doctor to order medication that is available in a generic version. Some pharmacies, like the ones at Kroger and Walmart, have lists of inexpensive meds. These are usually $4 per month. Get a list from the pharmacy and ask your doctor if any of these medications would be helpful to you. My paroxetine (generic Paxil, an antidepressant) is one of the meds. on Kroger’s cheap drug list; it costs me less than $24 for a three month supply.

Another option is to fill out a Patient Assistance Program (PAP) form to request the drug company to provide the medication for free or for a reduced cost. Your doctor’s office may be able to provide you with the form and help you fill it out, or you can go to NeedyMeds for the form. Fill out your part, then ask your doctor to fill out his or her section. You may need to provide financial information, as help is based on ability to pay. Instructions are included with the PAP. I have used this site many times for clients and they often get the medications for free. NeedyMeds helps with all kinds of medications, not just psychiatric meds., so you can tell friends and family about this site if they’re having problems affording their meds.

Mental Health America provides information on other organizations that can help you afford your medications. You can find out more here.

If you have insurance, check to see if it is less expensive to get your medications in a 90 day supply instead of a 30 day supply. If so, ask you doctor to write the prescription for 90 days. When I did this initially, my pharmacy was concerned about giving me that much medication at once (I assume they were afraid I’d overdose since I have a diagnosis of depression). So you may need to convince your pharmacist or doctor that you can safely have that much medication in your home. If you have any doubt about your safety with that much medication, then just stick with the 30 day supply.

Medications are wonderful things. They’ve enabled me to live a fairly normal life. I sincerely hope they do this for you, too, and I hope that you have access to the medications you need.



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