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Getting Help: When and How

Most of us go through life solving our day-to-day problems without needing help to cope with our feelings. But sometimes, things get out of hand. A severe illness, an accident or an emotional crisis can overwhelm us, at least temporarily, and suddenly we need help.

How do you know if you need help?

Sometimes the need for help is obvious, and getting it is as simple as phoning for an ambulance or a fire truck. At other times, it can be hard to admit help is needed. This is especially true when your emotions are involved. The problem may be anything from what to do about an aging and increasingly helpless parent to a serious emotional problem such as depression. Here are some of the reasons you may decide you need help:

  • You find yourself feeling overwhelmed by feelings of anger or despair, and you cannot enjoy life anymore.
  • You used to be healthy, but now you are always feeling a bit sick and you are missing more and more time from work.
  • Your finances are out of control, and you are worried about being able to pay the next month’s rent or mortgage payment.
  • You cannot “get over” the death of someone you loved very much.
  • There is too much conflict at home. You are afraid your marriage may break up.
  • You are drinking too much or having some other kind of drug problem.
  • You are feeling suicidal.

What kind of help is available?

There are many different kinds of assistance available, and you should be able to find the help you need within your community through the following sources:

Your family doctor may refer you to a psychiatrist who is a medical doctor specially trained in the diagnosis and treatment of mental illnesses. He/she may treat your problems with medication or by psychotherapy (sometimes called “talk therapy”), or a combination of both.  You can search for doctors who are accepting new patients on the College of Physicians and Surgeon’s website:

You may decide to seek help from a psychologist, and you do not need a referral from your family doctor to do so. A psychologist will have a doctoral degree from a university but not a medical degree. He/she will use counselling and other methods that do not involve the use of medications. If you plan to see a psychologist, you should remember that his/her services are not necessarily fully covered by public health insurance. You may want to find out if some coverage is available through private insurance (for example, your company benefits plan) or through social assistance. You can find a psychologist by contacting the Ontario Psychological Association: 416-961-5552.

Other Therapist
Your family doctor or a psychiatrist may refer you to a therapist such as a social worker with specialized training. Again, you should be aware that the services offered may not be covered by an insurance plan.  To speak with an Information Referral Specialist about what options are available to you contact Connex Ontario.  The Mental Health Helpline provides information about mental health services in Ontario: 1-866-531-2600 or search their web directory: 

Self-Help Group
You may find it helpful to join a self-help group. These groups provide the mutual support of people who have all had similar experiences. For example, there are groups for people suffering from depression, grief, the trauma of sexual assault, eating disorders, and phobias (a phobia is an irrational, crippling fear of an object, animal or situation).  To find a local self-help group that can meet your needs contact the Self-Help Resource Centre Info Line: 416-487-4355 or search their web directory:

Other Community Services
You may find that some of your problems can be solved by assistance from agencies outside the mental health system. Sometimes, practical help, such as home nursing care, Meals On Wheels or subsidized door-to-door transportation for people unable to walk, will greatly reduce the stress in your life, either as a care-giver or as a disabled person.  To find what local services may be available to you can contact Toronto’s Find Help Information Services by dialing: 211 or searching their web directory:

Help from Friends and Others
Sometimes, the help of a trusted family member, a close friend or a member of the clergy for your religion can be a source of support. People close to you can also point you in the direction of the help you need.

Are you in Crisis?

Click here to find the help you need.

Are you thinking about Suicide?

Click here to find the help you need.