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How to Get Mental Health Help During the COVID-19 Pandemic

It’s World Mental Health Day, and this year more people than ever may need a reminder of the importance of asking for the help they need. For many, access to normal coping mechanisms may be unavailable or less accessible because of closures and social distancing, along with financial strains.

The pandemic has shined a bright light on the importance of seeking therapeutic help.

“In response to COVID, we have witnessed unprecedented rates of mental health problems including depression, anxiety, relationship strain and suicidal thoughts,” said University of Houston Professor of Psychology John P. Vincent.

Vincent says there is a growing awareness that mental health problems often represent normal reactions to the stress, uncertainty, and hardship that many of us have faced. “With widespread recognition that we all are susceptible to emotional challenges, COVID has helped counter the negative stigma that mental health problems have had,” he explained.

Ways to Ask for Help

Although it can feel awkward, asking for help is a sign of strength, and finding someone you can trust, an understanding person, can help you open up the conversation about your struggles and what you are feeling. It is often helpful to introduce a conversation by presenting something as an experience to your friends, said Dallas psychiatrist Dr. Leslie H. Secrest. 

An example could be saying “the other day I was feeling sad, upset or frustrated about …” 

More conversations about depression can help to destigmatize mental health, and it can mean fewer people will feel some sense of shame or guilt about why they’re struggling, said clinical psychologist Kevin Gilliland, Psy.D, executive director of Innovation360 in Dallas

Sometimes being there for someone else and helping a friend cope can also help you open up your own feelings. 

“We can all support someone,”  said Jamie Justus, LCSW, a therapist based in Austin, in a blog post.  “People want to be heard, and we all have that super power to share.”

The Power of Self-Evaluation 

“We have all been jolted off course, and we don’t know what is ahead,” Katy Redd, associate director for Prevention, Development & Media Relations for University Health Services & Counseling & Mental Health Center at the University of Texas at Austin, said on the phone this week.

Redd said that before the pandemic students at the university were receiving mental health services for anxiety, stress and depression, but now students are coming in with relationship issues, roommate issues, family problems, ongoing depression, bipolar disorder, financial stress and more.

Redd said this is a good time to acknowledge the things that make you feel well and to ask yourself if you feel good when you are engaging with certain people or in different situations, such as taking a hike or having a Zoom meeting with your parents or a favorite aunt.

Vincent echoes the importance of being aware of your wellbeing. “An important part of self-care is the awareness that asking for help is a sign of strength. By accessing help and enlisting the support of our family and friends, we can turn the COVID crisis into an opportunity for personal growth,” he said.

Mental Health Services Available Via Telehealth

Telehealth sessions are much like in-person visits between the patient and a psychiatrist, varying from initial assessment with a detailed history and collaboration to development of a treatment plan to psychotherapy, said Dr. Secrest. “Ongoing sessions are much like in-person sessions and yet the therapist gets to be in a different setting which at times is very informative,” he said.

Sessions can be by video or by audio only. Telehealth sessions generally have a good satisfaction score by both patient and psychiatrist, Secrest explained. 

“The cost varies, but, currently, insurance and Medicare will cover telehealth sessions,” he added.

Dr. Secrest says there are some excellent websites online that anyone can access to do stress reduction, mentalizing or understanding the mental state of oneself or others, and advice on how to address depression.

Want to get started this weekend? Here is a list of mental health podcasts.

Written by RA News staff.


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