Using Telehealth to Meet Mental Health Needs During the COVID-19 Crisis

Telemedicine

Experiencing a pandemic can be stressful not just because of its consequences on our health and the economy but the social distancing protocols enforced can contribute to people’s feelings of loneliness and isolation. Because of this, there has been an increase in cases of mental health disorders during the COVID-19 crisis such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and suicidal ideation.

This has been made worse due to the fact that seeking and receiving professional help has become even more difficult due to the restrictions enforced like social distancing protocols and even lockdowns. To combat this, the government has expanded the network of telehealth services to provide for and meet the mental health needs of various communities.

What is Telehealth?

Telehealth is defined as a method of providing and delivering healthcare services to individuals using modern technology such as video conferencing, phone calls, and other digital communication technologies.

The initial goal of telehealth services is to provide increased accessibility to healthcare services to individuals who may have difficulty receiving the care they need. Telehealth services allow healthcare services from medical professionals to become more readily available as well as convenient.

Telehealth services can also serve as a way to connect patients or individuals with specialists who may be too far from their hometown, therefore, saving them the cost, time, and effort of traveling out of town.

Telehealth for Meeting Mental Health Needs

One of the sectors of the medical industry that has greatly benefited from telehealth services is the mental health sector. Telehealth for mental health services, or telepsychiatry, has been recognized to have plenty of benefits when it comes to providing the necessary care for individuals with mental health conditions.

Some of the benefits that telepsychiatry offers are:

● Improved accessibility to specialized care in remote locations
● Reduced need to go to the emergency room
● Higher chances of continuity of care and follow-ups
● Lessen the need for leaves and time off work
● More convenient for patients who may not be comfortable in a hospital
● Lessen the stigma associated with seeking professional help

Telehealth for Mental Health Needs during COVID-19 Crisis

The need for telehealth services has never been more apparent than during the COVID-19 crisis. The virus does not only have physiological effects on the community but psychological effects as well.

Fears about the health of one’s loved ones as well as one’s own can trigger symptoms of anxiety and even depression that when left unaddressed could lead to other serious health conditions.

Moreover, the pandemic has also resulted in fears of not just loss of loved ones but also of financial stability and access to much-needed resources, especially since the quick spread of the virus has disrupted the regular delivery of mental health services to patients.

To combat this issue, expanding the range and accessibility of telehealth services has been made a priority. While before it was used to simply provide mental health care for those residing in remote areas, it has now become more widely available throughout the country.

What does this mean?

The pandemic and the protocols enforced to prevent the virus from spreading have led to increased difficulties with carrying out normal tasks, especially those that involve leaving the house. This includes but is not limited to seeking healthcare services at medical facilities.
With telehealth services rapidly expanding across the country, those who require specialized care such as psychiatric and psychological services can receive the care they need without exposing themselves to more risks.

Moreover, the increased recognition of the benefits of telehealth services can change the landscape of modern medicine as well as how we view mental health as a whole. While some specialties shone more than others, like psychology and psychiatry, the expansion of telemedicine can only mean good for those who need medical attention.

Benefits of Using Telehealth during the COVID-19 Crisis

To further emphasize how telehealth has changed the face of modern medicine as well as how medical professionals deal with patients’ concerns, here are some of the other benefits it has, especially during the COVID-19 crisis.

  • Patients are likely to feel more comfortable in a familiar setting, allowing them to open up and address their issues.
  • Psychiatrists can see how their patients behave in their regular environment, thus, giving them valuable insight into their patients.
  • Both medical professionals and patients alike reduce their chances of being infected by staying home while still receiving and giving medical attention.
  • The chances of the virus spreading is less as well due to fewer people out on the streets and in medical institutions like hospitals.
  • It can prevent the risk of fatal consequences for those who are reluctant to receive care at medical institutions.
  • It can connect them with the specialist they need without having to venture out and risk exposing themselves to the virus.
  • Patients no longer need to wait in long lines just to see their physician.

Analysts predict that once patients get a taste of the convenience and effectiveness that telehealth has to offer, they will be incredibly reluctant to go back to the traditional way of receiving care.

Mental health issues have become rampant during the COVID-19 crisis due to the stress the situation brings upon people, especially for those who already have existing mental health conditions. Anxiety and depression are some of the most common disorders people are currently experiencing, with the number of cases continually increasing as the pandemic continues. 

Combating these has been a priority of the government, hence, the rapid expansion of telehealth services – a fact that can significantly change the delivery of healthcare services, now and after the pandemic.

Telehealth has shone even brighter in the specialties of psychiatry and psychology, allowing specialists to address another aspect of the pandemic – its psychological effects on the world. And hopefully, these services will still be made available to those who need and prefer it, even after things return to normal. After all, mental health is an aspect of one’s well being that affects everything about a person – from their physical to their emotional health.

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