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If you search online for information about how to treat mental illness, you’ll see a lot of information about medications and therapy. That goes for our [Mental Health America's] site too—after all, medications and therapy are important parts of many people’s treatment. But they both require the help of a professional. That can make it feel like your mental health is in someone else’s hands. Fortunately, there’s a lot you can do to take charge of your own mental health.

Developing a treatment plan

There are lots of treatment options for mental health conditions. Some examples:

  • Therapy (group or individual)

  • Medications

  • Support groups (online or in-person)

  • Lifestyle changes, like improving your sleep, eating foods that help you feel better, and getting more exercise

  • Herbal supplements

  • Journaling

  • Learning to reframe your negative thoughts

Some of these, like medications and therapy, require working with a professional. But a lot of them are things you can do on your own. Most people will do best with some combination of treatments.As you try out different treatments and decide which ones do or don’t work for you, you’re putting together a treatment plan. This doesn’t have to be something formal—it can be as simple as making a mental note about what works and what doesn’t.The best treatments are ones that:

  • You’ll stick to. Most mental health treatments take time. If you’re having trouble being consistent with your treatment, you have two options: find ways to be more consistent (like using an app to track your habits), or find another treatment that you’re more likely to stick with.

  • You believe in. Anyone who recommends a treatment to you should be able to give some explanation for it. You don’t need to know all the scientific details of how it works (unless you find that interesting!), but it’s helpful to do some research before you try something new.

  • Complement each other. Mental illnesses have a lot of different causes and symptoms. Many treatments only target one or two of them. Combining treatments that target different causes or symptoms will help you cover your bases.

Your treatment plan will change over time. Something that used to work really well may just not have the same effect anymore. Or, you might learn about a new treatment you’d like to try. Stay flexible and open to new ideas!

Assembling a treatment team

You don’t have to come up with your treatment plan alone. You can get help from a mental health professional, like a doctor or a therapist. You can also get help from your support system—friends, family members, and any online or in-person support groups you attend.These people can give you advice you wouldn’t have thought of yourself. They can provide accountability and encouragement to help you stick to your treatment plan.It can take time to put your treatment team together. Some of those people may come and go over time. But at the end of the day, it’s your team—you choose who to let in. And remembering that can make all the difference in feeling like you’re in charge of your own mental health.

Working with professionals who listen

A good doctor or therapist will make sure that you are an equal partner in your treatment. They will take your opinions into account, and take your concerns seriously. If you feel like your doctor or therapist isn’t listening to you, you can always get a second opinion from another professional.Doctors may know more about how medications work, and what tends to work best for the majority of their clients. But you are the expert on your own experiences. Mental health is extremely personal! What works for someone else may not work for you.Mental health professionals can be a valuable part of your treatment team. Just remember that it’s still your team!

Mental Health America offers an online screening tool to help you better understand any symptoms you're experiencing and help set you up on the right path towards recovery.


McLean, Brandon. (2016). Taking Charge Of Your Mental Health (Infographic). NAMI Blog. Retrieved from

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