Get Help if You Need It

If you or someone you know is in crisis, contact your local crisis line. This number can be found in the front of your phone book. If attempted suicide is a possibility, call 911—this situation is an emergency.

Alberta’s 24-hour Mental Health Help Line is 1-877-303-2642

The Canadian Mental Health Association advocates for all types of care that help people find optimal mental health. The treatments that a doctor prescribes could include one or more of the following:

Just as there are different causes and symptoms of mental illness, there are also many different ways to treat it.

Talk to your doctor

The first step to getting help begins by visiting your family doctor. Talking to a doctor as soon as possible about any mental health concern can clarify options for assistance and determine, or rule out, any physical causes for mental health issues.

Although it’s sometimes uncomfortable or frightening to talk about, the sooner you seek help, the better prepared you will be to manage a mental illness. Reaching out also reminds us that we are not alone—there are professionals with expertise who can help.

If you don’t have a regular family doctor, there are other options for accessing mental health professionals:

  • Go to a walk-in clinic or local hospital emergency room.
  • Call Alberta’s 24-hour Mental Health Help Line at 1-877-303-2642 for confidential information and referrals.
  • Call Health Link Alberta, a 24-hour advice and health information line staffed by registered nurses:
    403-943-5465 in Calgary;
    780-408-5465 in Edmonton; or
    1-866-408-5465, toll free from anywhere in Alberta.
  • Kid’s Help Phone is avaialble 24 hours a day at 1-800-668-6868

Remember, mental illnesses are treatable, so asking for help is critical to regaining optimum mental health. Healthcare professionals can work with you to determine the problem and prescribe the best treatment options for you.

Psychiatric care and counselling

Psychotherapy and counselling are valuable components of most mental health treatment programs.

Psychiatrists are mental health professionals who may diagnose, prescribe medication and provide psychotherapy for people with serious illnesses. A doctor’s referral is required for psychiatric assessment and therapy.

Psychologists can provide support and psychotherapies, such as cognitive therapy, that help patients learn to effectively change their thinking, feelings and behaviour. Psychologists work on a broad range of issues and often specialize in a particular type of psychology.

Counsellors can also provide support, resources and assistance to students or others who need help making positive changes and/or informed choices in their lives. The counsellor will talk with the person to get a clear idea of the problem and will then be able to offer treatment options.

Social workers help people deal with personal and social problems, either directly or by planning or implementing programs that benefit groups or communities.


Medication can be a crucial component of the treatment of certain mental illnesses. Physicians and psychiatrists are medical doctors who assess a person’s condition, work with patients to determine a diagnosis, and prescribe medication and/or other treatments necessary for that person to get well.

Because everyone is different, no one treatment or medication works the same for every person. Sometimes, patients must try different medications until they find the right one that makes them feel better without disruptive side effects. Furthermore, psychiatric medication can take some time to stabilize a mental illness. While experimenting with medications can be frustrating, it is worthwhile following through to find the medication(s) that work.

Additional methods

There is a wide range of alternative methods to improve mental health; however, these methods should not be a substitute for a physician’s diagnosis or treatment. Some examples of alternative treatments are physical exercise, yoga and meditation, all of which help people relax and improve their mood.

Some employers offer assistance programs as a part of an employee benefit package. Many of these programs offer counselling for all family members.

Exploring spiritual options at a place of worship can provide people with additional support and add purpose to their lives.

Self-help groups give people in similar situations a chance to advise and support one other.

Nutritional counsellors can provide education on making healthy food choices for a balanced diet to improve overall health. Naturopathic counselling emphasizes the body’s potential to heal itself, and focuses on prevention and balance.