Mental health resources
At WW, we know that physical health is just one aspect of overall wellness. Mental health is an important part of the picture, too.
Everyone experiences difficult emotions such as sadness, worry, and grief from time to time. WW’s mindset pillar offers many techniques to help members cope with such feelings along the journey—for example, by developing awareness, practicing gratitude, and managing stress. But mindset, which centers around how you think, is different from mental health.
Emotional distress that feels unusually intense or persistent may warrant professional care. If the way you feel has been negatively affecting your ability to meet responsibilities, maintain healthy relationships, or just live fully, now is a great time to learn about supportive resources. Nearly half of U.S. adults experience clinically significant mental health symptoms at some point in their lives. The first thing to know is that you are not alone. The second is that help is available.
WW does not provide mental health treatment or advice, and our Coaches are not mental health professionals. That’s why the WW Science Team developed this resource! The goal is to connect our members with credible, trustworthy resources for more information.
Your mental health matters. Whether you want to learn more about mental health issues, get basic tips for finding professional help for emotional difficulties you’re experiencing, or find ideas for supporting someone in your life, read on for descriptions of mental health concerns that people commonly experience, followed by resources for getting the help and information you need.
Common mental health concerns
Below is a condensed guide to some of the many mental health concerns that affect millions of adults every year. This list is not all-inclusive. You can learn more about these and other mental health issues by browsing the Health Topics library offered by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), or the American Psychological Association’s collection of psychology topics. After this section, you’ll find a list of respected organizations and services that offer help.
Self-harm and suicidal thoughts
Nearly 10 million adults in the U.S. report experiencing thoughts of suicide or self-harm at some point each year. Along with a desire to hurt oneself, suicidal thinking is often (but not always) accompanied by behavioral signs such as withdrawing from family and friends, talking about feeling empty or hopeless, using drugs or alcohol more often, or experiencing a change in eating or sleeping patterns. Suicidal thoughts and actions are signs of extreme distress. They are not a display of “weakness” or a harmless bid for attention.
If you are thinking about killing yourself, it’s critical to reach out for help immediately. You can connect with a trained crisis counselor for free, 24/7, by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255), or by messaging the Crisis Text Line—simply text “Home” to 741741. Together, you and the counselor can create a personalized safety plan that will give you space to cope with your pain while exploring healthy alternatives to suicide. Additional resources for emergency and long-term support are below.
Distress related to eating and body image
WW is built on healthy, evidence-based approaches to wellness and weight management aimed at helping people feel their best. But we recognize that many experience significant distress related to their eating behaviors and thoughts about food. Chronic feelings of guilt and shame around eating, feeling a persistent lack of control around eating, using laxatives or purging to lose weight, excessively exercising to burn calories, or being preoccupied with weight or body shape can indicate an eating disorder or disturbance.
For people struggling with such feelings and behavior patterns, the weight-loss and wellness journey can be especially complex. WW’s position is that weight-loss programs are not appropriate for people who are struggling with disordered eating. Addressing eating disorder symptoms with a qualified care professional is critical for improving one’s wellbeing and overall relationship to food.
For this reason, WW members who are experiencing disordered eating may be asked to suspend their WW membership until they receive medical clearance to return to the program. The wellbeing of our members is WW’s utmost priority.
Occasional anxiety and worry are a normal part of life. A person might feel on edge when faced with a problem at work, for example, or before making an important life decision. But fear or worry that persists over time and interferes with daily activities or routines could be a sign of an anxiety disorder.
Anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorder—often experienced as chronic worry that interferes with daily activities—as well as panic disorder (also known as panic attacks), obsessive-compulsive disorders, and various phobia-related disorders centered on specific situations or objects.
Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental illnesses, and they are treatable. In the next section, you’ll find links to resources for speaking with your doctor about anxiety and setting up long-term support.
Everyone feels sad or “blah” at least sometimes, either in response to specific life events or just because. Though most of us don’t enjoy feeling down, occasional negative moods are an inevitable part of the human experience.
Challenges can arise when such feelings persist, however. If you notice that sadness, hopelessness, or a diminished interest in things you normally enjoy is lasting for more than a few weeks, you may be experiencing a depressive disorder. Depressive disorders—which include clinical depression, postpartum depression, bipolar disorder, and others—can have significant effects on how people feel, think, carry out relationships, and manage daily activities such as sleeping, eating, and working. Depressive disorders are common but serious. They’re often treatable with talk therapy, prescription antidepressant medication, or a combination of approaches.
Substance use disorders
Over 20 million adults in the U.S. have a substance use disorder, defined by a physical and psychological dependence on alcohol, nicotine, narcotics, or drugs such as cocaine or marijuana. A substance use disorder alters a person’s normal desires and priorities and may interfere with a person’s ability to meet responsibilities and maintain healthy relationships. Treatment options for substance use disorders include behavioral counseling, medication, treatment for co-occurring mental health issues, and long-term follow-up care to prevent relapse.
Trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder
Trauma is a form of deep emotional distress caused by a shocking, scary, or dangerous experience. Examples of potentially traumatic events include natural disasters (e.g., hurricanes, earthquakes, and wildfires), acts of violence (assault, abuse, warfare, mass shootings), and accidents such as car crashes.
Survivors respond to traumatic experiences in different ways. Common responses include anxiety, sadness, or anger; difficulty concentrating and sleeping; and flashbacks or intrusive thoughts about the traumatic event. Responses to trauma can be immediate or delayed, brief or prolonged.
In many cases, these feelings naturally abate over time—over a period of weeks or months. A small number of survivors may find that their feelings become chronic, a condition known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Many trauma survivors with and without PTSD find talk therapy helpful for processing their experiences. Medication is sometimes recommended, as well.
Everyone deserves to feel valued, respected, and safe in their relationships. Relationship abuse—also known as domestic abuse or intimate partner violence—occurs when one person in a relationship attempts to assert power or control over another. Relationship abuse can be physical, emotional, or both. It can happen to anyone in any type of relationship and does not discriminate by gender, sex, or age.
Abusive relationships are very challenging to manage. Along with physical harm, targets of relationship abuse may experience emotional and psychological consequences that include anxiety, depression, and feelings of isolation and helplessness. If you are in a relationship with someone who displays abusive patterns, know that the abuse is not your fault. Help is available.
Mental health resources
At this point you might find yourself thinking, “I’d like to see about getting help, but I’m not sure where to start.” Consider the resources below for exploring your options and setting up the support you need.
Find an in-person therapist
Many people have successfully navigated emotional difficulties by working with a psychologist or other licensed therapist. The American Psychological Association offers this beginner’s guide to therapy with more information on what to expect from the process and how to get started. Another useful resource is this NIMH guide to starting a conversation with your primary doctor about seeking mental health treatment.
Many professional groups and organizations offer location-based search tools to help you find psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, and counselors in your area. We’ve listed a few below.
- American Psychological Association psychologist locator
- Psychology Today therapist locator
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration treatment center locator
- National Eating Disorders Association treatment provider map
- Association for the Advancement of Cognitive and Behavioral Therapies therapist locator
The search tools above are just some possible starting points. WW is unable to endorse or verify the providers found on these or any other websites. We recommend that you work with your primary care doctor and insurance carrier to locate a therapist who will serve you best.
Online therapy providers
You don’t necessarily have to visit a therapist’s office for care. A variety of online treatment services have emerged in recent years to connect patients and care providers remotely. Digital therapy platforms can be as effective as traditional in-person treatment and may be more convenient. Just as you would when asking for an in-person referral, WW recommends that you partner with your primary care physician and insurance carrier to choose a digital service that meets your needs.
To learn more about online therapy, browse this library of expert-reviewed articles from Verywell Mind. Popular digital therapy providers include:
As with all mental health treatment, it’s important to find providers who are licensed by the state in which they practice. Be sure to verify the credentials of any therapist before signing on.
Many people have found that calling or texting a helpline is helpful for working through hard feelings in the moment and can serve as an important first step in finding long-term support. Calls are generally handled by counselors and advocates who are trained to offer crisis intervention, as well as offer suggestions for connecting with local resources.
Crisis Text Line is a free, 24-hour text messaging service for people who are experiencing any form of emotional distress, from grief to overwhelming anxiety. Crisis Text Line offers trained volunteers who will work to understand your problem, provide safety planning, and make recommendations for additional resources, if needed.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
If you are thinking about attempting suicide or hurting yourself, or if you are worried about a friend or loved one who may be thinking about suicide, the Lifeline network provides free and confidential support 24/7.
National Domestic Abuse Hotline
This 24-hour hotline serves people experiencing relationship abuse, as well as people seeking to end their own abusive behavior. Trained advocates offer safety planning, emotional support, and resources for treatment providers and shelters across the U.S.
Trained volunteers offer support, resources, and eating-disorder treatment information for people who may be experiencing disordered eating. Information is available for loved ones of people with eating disorders, as well. Check the Helpline information page for up-to-date hours of operation.
The NAMI HelpLine is a free peer-support service providing information, local resource referrals, and support to people living with mental health conditions, as well as their family members and caregivers. Visit the website for up-to-date hours of operation.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration National Helpline
SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a confidential, free, 24/7 information service for individuals and loved ones of those living with mental disorders and/or substance use disorders. This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations.
Operated by RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), this confidential hotline connects callers with resources in their communities. Based on zip code or the first six digits of a phone number, callers can find health facilities that offer specialized care for survivors of sexual violence, someone to help talk through experiences of sexual violence, referrals for long-term support, information about local laws, and more.
Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline
Call or text 800-422-4453
The Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline offers 24-hour access to support and resources for every kind of child abuse situation. If you are a young person who is being harmed, if you know someone who might be hurting, or if you are concerned that you might harm a young person, call today.
Trevor Project Lifeline and chat service
Call 866-488-7386, or text “TREVOR” to 202-304-1200
The Trevor Project provides crisis-intervention and suicide-prevention services to LBGTQ+ youth, with trained volunteer counselors standing by 24/7. The Trevor Project serves young people who are in crisis, feeling suicidal, and/or in need of a safe and judgment-free place to talk.
WW’s team follows certain safety protocols in monitoring our member community, including our social network, Connect. In some cases, WW Coaches or other personnel may reach out to members who may benefit from outside support. While WW Coaches are not trained to provide clinical guidance on mental health concerns, they may guide members toward external resources, such as those above, when deemed appropriate.
This article was reviewed for accuracy in July 2021 by Allison Grupski, PhD, senior director for behavior change strategies & coaching at WW. The WW Science Team is a dedicated group of experts who ensure all our solutions are rooted in the best possible research.