Mental Health in Maryland

The 20-page “mental health: a guide for faith leaders” and its two-page, quick reference companion are resources from the Mental Health and Faith Partnership, made up of psychiatrists and faith leaders representing diverse traditions.

Mental Health Frequently Asked Questions

Where can I find some basic information about mental illness?
Try the following American Psychiatric Association resources!

What is a psychiatrist?
A psychiatrist is a physician (M.D. or D.O.) who specializes in the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of mental illnesses and substance use disorders. Psychiatrists are the only mental health professionals who can prescribe medications and admit to hospitals. To become a psychiatrist, someone must graduate from college and medical school, and then go on to complete four years of residency training in the field of psychiatry. Some psychiatrists get additional training to further specialize in such areas as child and adolescent psychiatry, geriatric psychiatry, forensic (legal) psychiatry, administrative psychiatry, addiction psychiatry, emergency psychiatry, psychiatry in general medical settings (consultation/liaison psychiatry), mental retardation/developmental disability, community psychiatry and public health, military psychiatry and psychiatric research. Some choose additional training in psychoanalysis at special psychoanalytic institutes. In addition psychiatrists, like all physicians, are required to meet annual continuing medical education requirements. This extensive medical training enables psychiatrists to understand the body’s functions and the complex relationship between mental/emotional illness and other medical illnesses. The psychiatrist is thus the mental health professional and physician best qualified to distinguish between physical and psychological causes of both mental and physical distress.

What are the differences between psychiatrists and other professionals who provide mental health care?
Only the psychiatrist is a medical doctor (M.D. or D.O.) who can order medical tests and prescribe medication in addition to being able to provide psychotherapy. Others who care for people with mental illness undergo different types of training whose length and fields of study differ. A psychologist applies psychological principles to the treatment of emotional and behavioral disorders through various psychotherapies, and holds either a master’s degree (M.S.) or doctoral degree (Ph.D. or Psy. D.) in psychology. A licensed social worker (LCSW) is also trained in psychotherapy and helps people deal effectively with a variety of mental health and daily living problems to improve overall functioning. The social worker usually holds a master’s degree in social work (M.S.W.). A psychiatric nurse holds an associate, bachelor’s (B.S.) or master’s (M.S.) degree in nursing. Most of their training takes place in a hospital inpatient service, and nurses administer patient care ordered by a medical doctor.

What is psychotherapy?
Psychotherapy is a form of interaction between a mental health practitioner (clinician) and his/her client or patient that is designed to give the patient relief from suffering. Most of the time, psychotherapy takes the form of talking between the clinician and the patient. Clinicians have training in particular therapies that they prefer and feel comfortable with. However, not all forms of psychotherapy are effective for all conditions. The therapy should fit the needs of the patient.

What are psychiatric medications?
There are many kinds of psychiatric medications. In psychiatry, the most frequently prescribed medications are antidepressants, used to decrease the severity and length of time a person is depressed. There are also effective medications for other conditions including anxiety, panic, addictions, severe mood swings, hyperactivity, and being out of touch with reality. All psychiatric (also called psychotropic) medications can have side effects. If medications are prescribed to you, make sure you know the potential side effects and when to call your doctor if particular ones occur. In recent years there has been controversy regarding the potential for antidepressants to lead to suicidal ideation.

How can I help a loved one who may be suffering from a mental illness?
Discuss the issue with your primary care physician, or in the case of a child, your family pediatrician. Your physician may perform a physical evaluation to determine whether any physical problems may be the cause or contributor to the mental or emotional problem. The physician can be helpful by providing the names of psychiatrists appropriate to consult. Also, a referral service is available through the “Find a Psychiatrist” feature on this web site or by contacting the MPS office during business hours at (410) 625-0232.

I don’t have health insurance and I can’t afford to pay for my prescription. How can I get financial help?
The Partnership for Prescription Assistance brings together America’s pharmaceutical companies, doctors, other health care providers, patient advocacy organizations and community groups to help qualifying patients who lack prescription coverage get the medicines they need through the public or private program that’s right for them. Many will get them free or nearly free. Its mission is to increase awareness of patient assistance programs and boost enrollment of those who are eligible.

How do I file a complaint about my health insurance denying coverage for treatment?
You have the right to appeal denial decisions with the assistance of the Attorney General’s office.  For more information please visit: http://www.oag.state.md.us/Consumer/HEAU.htm

If you are dissatisfied with the health plan’s final response to your appeal, you can also file a complaint through the Maryland Insurance Administration.

Mental Health Information from the American Psychiatric Association