Happy Monday, everyone! Today I’m going tell you how I fast-tracked my own ADHD diagnosis and treatment — and how you can, too. If you’re struggling, you don’t need to navigate the mental health care maze alone. There’s a free, simple program out there to help, and it may be just a phone call away.

overwhelmed photo

Photo by geralt on Flickr

Does your company have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP)? Maybe you’ve seen a poster behind the coffee maker or gotten a cheesy-looking brochure with your new hire materials. Employers offer EAPs to help workers sort through all kinds of personal issues: everything from career planning to marital struggles to smoking cessation to serious mental illness.

The process is simple: call the 800 number, talk to someone, and schedule an appointment to visit their office if you need to. Most EAPs are contracted out to a third party, not managed directly by your employer, and maintain strict confidentiality about who uses the service.

As a former human resources professional, I know it’s easy write off a service like this. Even I believed it was something for other people — until my ADHD became too much to bear. Then I picked up the phone.

If you’re struggling right now and you have access to an EAP, call them. You owe it to yourself.

5 reasons to call your EAP

  1. You might have an EAP even if you’re unemployed.
    Really and truly. EAPs generally cover everyone in the employee’s household. That means even if your employment situation doesn’t afford you an EAP, you may still have access through your spouse, roommate, etc.
  2. It cuts out the extra steps.
    Forget the red tape, multiple calls and appointments, and HMO referrals. Forget combing through a list of therapists and trying to pick one. Your EAP is a one-stop shop for every problem in the book. While they’ll have to refer you back to an independent specialist eventually, you get several sit-down visits with a professional before that happens.
  3. You get professional help without spending a penny.
    Specialist copays are no joke. If yours are on the high side, don’t let money get in the way of the support you need. EAP visits are free, and they can accomplish a lot. After I met with an EAP counselor, they referred me back to my primary care doctor for a more consultation and a prescription for stimulant medication (the EAP can’t prescribe — just give advice). I may not have invested thousands (or even hundreds) of dollars in therapy, but I still changed the course of my life.
  4. You won’t have to wait.
    Have you ever called a doctor’s office in a panic and found out you can’t get an appointment for weeks? If you’ve gotten a recommendation for the best ADHD coach in town, don’t consign yourself to suffering every day until your first meeting. The EAP can provide stop-gap support the very next day.
  5. Did I mention the bill is already paid?
    If your employer offers an EAP, they’re already paying a monthly fee for every employee. You’re not putting anyone out or costing anyone money, and no one at your office is even going to know you called — not even your HR person.

What are you waiting for?

When I finally sought help for my ADHD, I was at an all-time low. Getting that help felt like a task execution challenge I couldn’t face. If you’re struggling just to get within sight of the starting line, EAPs are a lifesaver.

Of course, you’ll want to prepare as much as possible before meeting with any mental health professional, even one at your EAP. Take a few minutes to gather your thoughts before your appointment. Write down a few notes. Make an inventory of the ways you feel your ADHD affects your quality of life right now, personally and professionally, and think about struggles you’ve had in the past. Be prepared to talk honestly and openly about what your life is like and how you’re feeling.

Most of all, give yourself a little praise. You’re taking advantage of a program that’s there to help you thrive and succeed.

Do you have experience with an Employee Assistance Program? Please share your thoughts and advice in the comments so others can benefit!