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by Sheena Vasani

First, you have to deal with cultural stigmas and then you have to deal with finances. As a South Asian American, I know firsthand how difficult it can be to receive quality mental health treatment. That’s why I’m sharing this list of “hacks” one can use to afford some support. While this is geared towards desis in America, anyone worldwide can benefit from some of these tips. From coupons to online therapists, there are multiple legitimate ways to get help, even if you’re financially struggling, so please don’t give up! Keep reading to learn a few tips and please feel free to share your suggestions either in the comments section or on The Desi Wellbeing Project page.

1) GoodRx.com

According to one pharmaceutics employee, this is just one of many legitimate websites out there you can use to find coupons that are taken at most pharmacies. You can also compare the prices of your medication against thousands across the US to help you find the best deals.

2) Sliding Scale

Many therapists and psychiatrists will work with your income and charge you what you can afford. You can either search on Google to find some in your area or check out Psychology Today, where you can find local therapists and more.

3) Go Generic

Generic medications like Fluoxetine are often much cheaper than brand names like Prozac and are essentially identical. I’ve taken both Fluoxetine and Prozac on-and-off for years and the results were the same. Talk to your doctor to see if this is an option for you.

[Read Related: Desi Wellbeing Warriors: South Asians Breaking the Mold]

4) NeedyMeds and Pfizer RxPathways

Both direct people towards programs that will help them afford their medications, ranging from the $4 Generic Discount Drug Program to Patient Assistant Programs. In addition, they provide information for coupons, rebates, and more, while NeedyMeds can also help people find affordable counseling.

5) Medical Clinic Charity Programs

Ask if your medical clinic offers “charity” or financial aid programs to assist struggling patients. Many programs help patients unable to afford their care even if they have insurance.

6) Online Therapy

While I’d generally recommend face-to-face counseling, if you’re financially struggling, online therapy is a much more cost-effective way to get counseling and is also highly convenient. You don’t need to go anywhere, plus you can often talk to your therapist immediately when a problem arises, as opposed to waiting for an appointment. Prices can range from $30-$70 per week – not bad given that in-person therapy often costs about $150-200 per session! Multiple studies have proven these programs are effective. There are a variety of options out there. Here are just a few:

  • BetterHelp: After you sign up, this resource connects you with a licensed therapist you can either instant message or speak to by phone or video chat. Patients often use this service long-term.
  • Talkspace: You can talk to your licensed therapist multiple times a day through their instant messaging service. Many go on to use this long-term as well.
  • Online-Therapy.com: Based on the highly structured nature of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy [CBT], patients are given weekly “assignments.” Qualified therapists comment and can offer weekly one-on-one instant messaging sessions, helping patients identify and correct thinking errors. Given that CBT is supposed to be short-term, patients use this anywhere from a few weeks up to about one year. 

[Read Related: The One-Year Anniversary of ‘Haneri’: A Punjabi-Canadian Short Film on Mental Health]

7) Copay Assistance Programs

According to a pharmaceutical employee and Twitter user, SaltInMyTea, companies also offer copay assistance programs and coupons.

“You can typically Google search the name of the manufacturer, medication, and copay assist program,” they wrote. “There’s paperwork involved in getting onto them, but there is the option nine times out of ten.”

8) Samples

Doctors have often provided me with free or low-cost samples of otherwise incredibly expensive drugs, so make sure to ask if this option is available.

9) Additional Support

There’s an increasingly wide range of free online resources out there targeted specifically at South Asians, but here are just a few:

  • MannMukti: MannMukti provides an open forum for South Asians, in addition to offering a podcast series feature South Asian mental health experts. The website also keeps desis up-to-date on the latest mental health research and articles pertaining to our communities, while directing South Asians to local desi professionals and organizations.
  • The Desi Wellbeing Project: A storytelling project celebrating those everyday desis directly or indirectly promoting wellbeing in our communities, while normalizing mental health issues. We’re constantly accepting new stories, so feel free to send one over to [email protected] or [email protected]
  • MySahana: A non-profit dedicated to increasing awareness about mental health in the South Asian community that offers multiple educational resources while dispelling common emotional-mental health myths and more.

Do you have others tips or personal experiences with some of the resources listed above? Please feel to share them with us either in the comments section below or on The Desi Wellbeing Project page!


Sheena VasaniSheena Vasani graduated with a degree in International Relations from UC Berkeley.  She is a self-described compassion, gender liberation, and mental health activist, and has worked with various social justice initiatives, including V-Day.  In her free time, she ironically enjoys exploring various religions, cultivating her creativity, and cuddling her kitten. You can follow her on Twitter and on her personal blog.

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