The Washington Post posted an article on the Coronavirus pandemic’s impact on our mental health as it shared that America is on the verge of another health crisis of mental health: depression, substance abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder, and suicide.
This article was relatable, as a licensed clinical social worker who specializes in addiction and trauma-related disorders, I have seen an increase in clients asking for help as it relates to their anxiety. This often centers on fear of getting sick themselves or family falling ill, taking on more responsibility at work, sleep disturbances, frustration increasing and tolerance levels decreasing with themselves, their significant others, and their children. Clients seeking help are struggling with feelings of lack of control over their own destiny and the uncertainty of the Coronavirus. Those individuals on the front lines, particularly in hospital settings are having to watch people die or having to turn them away at the emergency room because they are not sick enough and not knowing what the future will hold for those that they will turn away. This can result in rise of PTSD symptoms and suicide rates as well. We have not touched on those who are isolated, don’t have physical contact with another person or their support system to help them through this time, and the lack of coping mechanisms and substances can sometimes become the coping skill they turn to in these times.
As the article suggests, mental health is treated differently than physical health. When an individual needs mental health care there are the challenges of getting insurance companies to cover the necessary treatment. Even with insurance, it is difficult to find therapists who accept certain policies, leaving those who can afford to pay out of pocket for help.
Experts warn with the pandemic, access problems may worsen. Insurance companies have restrictions on who therapists can treat across state lines. The pandemic has left mental health and addiction centers on the brink of financial collapse, preventing them from providing services to a much needed population. As this article reported, more than 60 percent said they would run out of funding in less than three months and some had already closed some programs.
Experts are reporting out of the trillions of dollars Congress passed in emergency funding, only a tiny portion was allocated for mental health. As therapists we are struggling to provide services, while still trying to reach out to those who are vulnerable and at the same time struggling with restrictions on licensing and reimbursement.These issues will only be exacerbated further when society begins to reopen and people begin to return to work and their lives struggling with additional stressors of mental health concerns and financial stressors.
This is especially relevant since May is Mental Health Awareness month. We need to pay attention to our county’s mental health. We have taken drastic steps to stop the spread of the Coronavirus and we need to start to do the same for mental health. We need better access to services through telehealth, mental health screenings, and more funding for mental health services.