How can someone find mental health support when many offices are closed or only providing teletherapy? While hospitals and other medical care facilities continue to see patients, mental health services have not been given the same priority. Peoples’ lives turned upside down when the pandemic hit the United States. Businesses were shut down, religious communities were torn apart, grieving families buried loved ones without others present, and children were forced to go to school online.
Outlets people once turned to for stress reduction were no longer accessible. Treatment halted suddenly for people struggling with mental health issues; such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and addictions. People dealing with a mental health crisis had little choice but to turn to emergency rooms which were overcrowded and under-staffed. Before Covid-19 our society was beginning to recognize the need for mental health support.
A few months into the pandemic, Psychology Today and other mental health platforms suggested that our society was facing a “Post-COVID-19 Suicide Epidemic”. Suicide rates were sky-rocketing, and people from all different socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds were reporting an increase in suicidal ideation. Major contributors were economic stress, social isolation, frontline healthcare workers, and loss of a loved one from COVID. Social isolation, in particular, was called out as a required COVID prevention approach, but one that exacerbated peoples’ abilities to combat depression and suicidal thoughts.
Research has also shown the importance of social connections in helping people overcome depression and suicidal thoughts. While social distancing remains an important tool in containing the coronavirus threat, the resulting loss of contact with friends and family will certainly add to the emotional burden we are all experiencing.Romeo Vitelli Ph.D.
About a week into the pandemic, various non-profit organizations were coming together to form online support. For example, if someone wanted to attend Alcoholics Anonymous, they could access a group via zoom by visiting www.aa-hotline.org. Other mental health facilities followed suit by offering online support for a variety of disorders such as anxiety and depression. The National Alliance on Mental Illness continues to offer support groups for patients and their loved ones. Groups meet weekly and are offered in English and Spanish.
More than half a year into the pandemic our society is recognizing the long-term fall-out of the COVID crisis and its impact on mental well-being. In the last couple of months, there has been an uptick in people seeking different types of therapeutic intervention. The stressors and strict social distance guidelines are not going away anytime soon. Most think until there is a vaccine things will not “go back to normal.” Many therapists and psychiatrists are open for business, but mostly through a telemedicine platform. Multiple times a week people reach out to me asking questions like, “How do I know if I need therapy,” or “How do I find a support group online,” or “What if I do not need counseling but I want more support and someone to offer advice about school, work, or relationships?”
Acknowledge Your Mental Health Needs
Now more than ever, people need to acknowledge their mental health needs. There is very little attention given to how to find a psychotherapist or psychiatrist in a pandemic, or how to know when psychological intervention is needed. Through the years, people turn to YouTube or Google to answer these questions. While these can provide some resources, the internet cannot diagnose an individual. People can turn to Sage to ask mental health experts questions about getting the support they need and where to find it.
If you think you are suffering from depression, anxiety, PTSD, addiction, or related issues, seek mental health attention. Allow a professional to offer screening guidelines to determine if psychological or psychiatric support is necessary. Resources, such as Psychology Today, offer a list of therapists and psychiatrists who prescribe medication throughout the country. Most profiles include their specialty area and if they are offering in-person or teletherapy. If you know a friend or family member who is already in therapy, ask them for resources. A referral from someone you trust can expedite the process of finding a provider that knows nothing about you.
Some people do not feel the need for therapy but are craving connection and a place where they can ask for advice. Mental Health America offers a variety of online support groups for alcoholics, trauma survivors, eating disorders, and cancer survivors. Some people are just searching for a place to feel heard. Loneliness support can also be in online platforms such as Healthline.com. For many, just knowing they are not alone can make the most significant difference.
Finding the Right Resources
If you need someone to talk to about any issues related to mental health, Sage has professionals that can answer questions about where and how to seek the appropriate kind of help. There is also a public area where people can talk about their fears or concerns about whatever kind of issues they are facing. Connection and support are critical indicators to reducing many mental disorders. Sages, who are qualified experts in the mental health field, are available to answer questions and offer resources to finding counseling or other appropriate levels of mental health attention.
If you or a loved one is feeling suicidal, contact the Suicide Prevention Lifeline. If you are unsafe due to domestic violence, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline. If you know a child that is in danger, contact https://www.childhelp.org.