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Telehealth improves mental health

Updated: Jul 17, 2020

I’m amused to hear Burger King’s commercials describing how concerned they are for me. Their pitch, “Let us take care of you while you take care of yourself” is smart advertising.

Ad writers understand that we’re a reactive culture. We’re focused on the danger of a virus. Coming from a place of fear, we often cope in maladaptive ways. Eating BK isn’t something that can be associated with me taking care of myself, but who wants to cook in the middle of a pandemic?

Eating comfort food in response to stress is so common that my Facebook feed is full of memes about it. So too are half-joking memes about the need for having sufficient quantities of wine on hand. We seek comfort. We’re trying to fill an emptiness and we’re a culture that favors instant gratification.

The impact this pandemic is having on our collective mental health and use of substances cannot be overstated. The stress of financial uncertainty is high, as is the inherent loneliness of social distancing. To say that this is a precarious turning point for our culture is an understatement.

The loss of time spent with friends and family is devastating. Many of us have lost contact with our work family as we work from home. Support groups of all types are now online only and many of us are struggling to maintain our recovery programs without face to face meetings.

We need mental health therapy and counseling for Substance Use Disorder more than ever, yet professionals are almost exclusively available through online platforms only. Depending on our age and life experience we may find ourselves resistant to accessing a clinician through a web browser.

Telehealth is indeed different than face to face sessions. Culturally, we’re so focused on what is we’ve temporarily lost that we may well overlook the advantages of telehealth:

- Convenience: Telehealth is available from the comfort of home

- Time saving: No commute, no waiting rooms

- Cost saving: No cost to get to and from the office

- Greater options: Instead of being limited by geographical proximity, professionals throughout one’s state can be chosen. This also opens the door to finding specialists in the areas we’re struggling in.

Millions of Americans are facing layoffs. My hope is that all of us are aware that we likely qualify for Medicaid coverage while unemployed. Pro tip: Medicaid typically covers two telehealth sessions per week. Mindfulness, healthy coping, maintaining/regaining a healthy perspective and support adjusting to trying circumstances – all of these and more are available through telehealth therapy.

I’m talking with a lot of people who are scared. What I am asking folks is, “How were you doing before COVID-19?” Anxiety was at an all-time

high in our country prior to the pandemic. What we’re seeing now is largely a matter of pre-existing conditions being exacerbated further. It’s more important than ever that we make this investment.

My greatest hope is that we don’t “go back to normal.” In truth, there is no going back. These experiences will change us. We get to choose individually and collectively whether it’s for better.

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