Understanding mental health
Mental health is your health as it relates to your mental, emotional, and social well-being. Well-being is a feeling of being comfortable, healthy, and happy. Mental health can also be called mental wellness.
Mental illness is a health condition that affects your thoughts, feelings, behavior, and physical health. Mental illness can also be called a mental disorder.
Mental illnesses are among the most common health conditions in the United States. Many factors and experiences can impact your mental health. These can include biology, family history, and life experiences. The COVID-19 pandemic increased anxiety and depression in people across the world.
Immigrants and refugees who have experienced abuse, loss, and war can have mental health problems. This is understandable. Not having access to education, work, housing, health resources, and community support can also affect your mental health.
Signs of mental illness
Common types of mental health illnesses include anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Mental illnesses can cause physical and emotional pain as well as changes in your behavior. They can make it difficult for you to do your usual daily activities.
Symptoms can be different for each person, but common signs include:
- Strong feelings of sadness, anger, or fear
- Increased hunger or loss of appetite
- Trouble sleeping
- No or low energy
- Having chronic pain
- Problems concentrating
- Thoughts of harming yourself
- Unwanted thoughts or memories
- Losing interest in activities
- Changes in school, work, or social activities
You can get help if you are experiencing these symptoms. It is not something to feel ashamed of. It can be hard for some people to talk about mental health, especially if it is not something you did in your home country.
Mental health is just as important as your physical health. Talking about mental health is the first step in healing. Getting treatment can help you feel better and improve the quality of your life.
Types of treatment
The type of treatment you get will depend on your specific experiences and needs. The two most common types of mental health treatment are:
Psychotherapy or talk therapy is the most common type. You can speak to a therapist by yourself or in a group. Other forms of therapy include art, music, and dance therapy.
Medication is often prescribed in combination with therapy.
Who can offer treatment
Service providers that are trained to treat mental illnesses in the United States include:
- Primary care providers are licensed to treat general health problems and can prescribe medication.
- Psychiatrists are medical doctors licensed to check for mental health problems, provide therapy, and prescribe medications.
- Psychologists are professionals licensed to test mental health problems and give therapy. Psychologists cannot prescribe medications.
- Social workers are licensed to assess and treat mental health problems.
- Counselors and therapists are licensed to provide therapy.
- Peer specialists are professionals who have experienced mental health conditions and are trained to offer emotional support.
Mental health professionals may work with specific groups, including immigrants, refugees, children, and families. They may also be trained in specific areas and may focus on depression, alcohol, drug addiction, or trauma.
How to find mental health services
There are different ways you can search for mental health services.
Start by contacting your primary care doctor if you have one. They can screen for mental disorders and refer you to a mental health specialist.
Ask your local resettlement agency. They can connect you with mental health help in your area. The Office of Refugee Resettlement offers mental health services and support to the following groups:
- Refugees and asylums
- Cuban/Haitian entrants
- Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) holders
- Victims of trafficking
- Survivors of torture
- Unaccompanied children
Check with your school to see if they offer mental health services.
Search for mental health services online.
list of mental health resources by zip code or city
list of free and low-cost services for immigrants in your area
list of centers providing general health and mental health services
helps undocumented youth find mental health support
list of culturally responsive counseling services
list of mental health and other resources for LGBTQ+ immigrants
resources for Muslim Americans
list of clinics that offer free or low-cost health services
list of services for Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders
list of clinics that treat mental health problems or substance abuse
list of facilities that treat substance abuse and addiction
list of counseling services for the South Asian community in the U.S.
list of counseling services for the Latinx community in the U.S.
list of free or low-cost services for undocumented immigrants
mental health services and support for survivors of war and torture in Arizona, Georgia, and Minnesota
list of mental health services in Illinois for immigrant communities
FindHello is an app you can use to look for help near you. It shows a map and a list of services for immigrants, refugees, asylum seekers, and undocumented people in the USA. Search for legal help, English classes, healthcare, housing support, and more.
Your immigration status does not affect your ability to receive mental health services. You are not required to report your immigration status to health care providers.
Crisis hotlines offer free support for people experiencing an emotional crisis. They keep your information confidential and do not share it with anyone. They are usually available at all hours of the day and every day of the week. All of these hotlines are staffed by counselors trained to listen and provide help. Some offer support in multiple languages.
988 (call or text)
(800) 985-5990 (call or text)
(800) 422-4453 (call or text)
88788 (text START)
(888) 373-7888 (call)
(800) 786-2929 (call or text)
(800) 656-4673 (call)
SAMHSA National Helpline to find local services
(800) 852-8336 (call)
Trevor Project for LGBTQ young people
(866) 488-7386 (call)
988 (call and press 1)
Most of these lines also have an option to chat online. Visit their website to check. If you are texting any of these lines, texting “hello” should connect you to someone.
Call 911 if you are in immediate danger. Tell the operator you are having a mental health emergency. Learn more about how to call the police.
Peer support groups are with people who have had similar experiences. In these groups, people get the chance to share their experiences and get support from people in their community.
- Immigrants Rising Wellness Support Groups are for undocumented groups, including Black, LGBTQ+, and Latinx individuals.
- NAMI Connection Support Groups are free and for anyone with a mental health condition.
- NAMI Family Support Groups are free and for family members who have loved ones with mental health conditions.
The information on this page comes from trusted sources, including mentalhealth.gov, NAMI, and SAMHSA. We aim to offer information in plain language that is easy to understand and updated regularly. This page is for guidance. USAHello does not give medical advice, nor are any of our materials intended to be taken as medical advice.