COVID-19 and its Impacts on Mental Healthcare

COVID-19 and its Impacts on Mental HealthcareMental health has taken center stage as we roll into our year-plus pandemic phase. We hear phrases like “self-care” and “languishing,” and we’re reminded daily that while there are many differences in each of us, we’re all generally feeling the same type of malaise as a result of the social isolation that has crept into our lives. It’s not just those with pre-existing mental health needs that are feeling low—it’s the frontline workers who see catastrophe every day; it’s the single parent who lost his job due to the pandemic; it’s the high-school student missing out on her senior year. Mental health has seen a steady decline, while mental healthcare needs are on the rise.

What of the Stigma?

The stigma surrounding mental health in the United States seems to have shifted a bit. Prior to the pandemic, individuals tended to turn their noses up at the idea of therapy. Today, it’s not uncommon for a work acquaintance to talk openly about his or her therapy sessions and even recommend their doctor to others. The awareness that is being drawn to mental health and taking care of yourself has resulted in an uptick of those seeking therapy, which is great for individuals as well as the industry. As noted in the BMJ article Social distancing in covid-19: what are the mental health implications?, individuals are more connected than ever when it comes to the effects this pandemic is having on our mental well-being. The article notes that “Despite the COVID-19 pandemic’s devastating effects, going forward, this pandemic could dramatically reduce mental health stigma leading to increased mental health help-seeking globally; talking about our mental health will become a new norm.”

What of the Access?

While the need for mental healthcare in the form of psychiatrists and psychologists may have increased, turns out that access to these treatments actually decreased during the pandemic. In fact, drug overdoses saw a 36 percent increase in 2020. Programs were closed, staff laid off, or hours dwindled—resulting in less availability of professionals while the patient backlog was soaring. The accessibility issue was somewhat mitigated by the prominence of telehealth, however we’ve got a long way to go before everyone who wants and needs treatment can get it.

What of the Future?

According to The Lancet’s article How mental health care should change as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, “home-based treatment is an essential part of COVID-19 mental health services and will be key to future service configurations to prevent the spread of infection and perhaps also as a more acceptable alternative to inpatient treatment for some service users and their families.” Expect to see telehealth remain in place, however remote therapy is not without its issues. There are folks who don’t have internet access, don’t understand how to use the technology required to visit with a mental health professional via phone or tablet, and still those who need that face-to-face interaction. It could be critical for mental healthcare providers to revisit the way they are conducting treatments by refining their “webside manner.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected nearly everyone’s lives. As we continue to process what has happened and navigate what’s to come, remember that we’re in this together. And at ARF Financial, we’ll always strive to keep you updated on the latest information for small businesses affected by the pandemic. Stay safe.