To limit the spread of COVID-19, The Council on Recovery has joined numerous behavioral health organizations across the world in adopting telehealth into our services, which means we treat people remotely for addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders. While telehealth has its drawbacks, expanded telehealth services across the globe is a significant step forward for mental healthcare, during the pandemic and beyond.
Here’s the problem – one in five adults in the United States live with a mental illness, but only half of them seek treatment. On top of this dismaying statistic is another reality – trauma and isolation from the global Coronavirus pandemic will undoubtedly trigger a mental health crisis in the United States. Unlike hurricanes and wildfires, which are localized, the virus brings devastation to all communities, and intensifies the need for mental health services in our country where million people are estimated to live in regions without direct access to mental health professionals.
Here’s another problem – despite major strides toward a better understanding and awareness of the importance of mental health, having any sort of mental illness, from anxiety to substance use disorder, is still highly stigmatized around the world and across cultures. People living with a mental illness may experience prejudice and discrimination, especially if they live in communities which downplay the importance of mental health.
The mental healthcare system going virtual breaks down barriers for many of those who need it.
Right now, telehealth is bringing needed services to individuals while still allowing them to stay inside and distance from people. Beyond, it means essential treatment is now accessible for people who aren’t mobile due to financial or health reasons, or those 111 million people who live in areas that lack mental health services.
The expansion of telehealth services also means that those who come from backgrounds in which mental illness is highly stigmatized can get treatment without drawing too much attention to themselves from their family or community members. They can also skip that scary first step of physically going to a treatment center.
Telehealth isn’t the ultimate answer to the mental health crisis America is about to face, especially since there are still technologically-poor populations who need our help. However, it is a big step forward in terms of accessibility, and The Council will continue to take whatever actions necessary to serve people struggling with substance use.
We’re seeing telehealth’s positive impact right here at The Council.
“Telehealth services have provided a unique opportunity for social interaction and normalcy during an otherwise traumatic, solitary collective experience,” says Jaimee Martinez, case manager for the Cradles program at The Council. “The feedback I had previously gotten from clients regarding in-person classes was that they enjoyed the secondary benefits of having some time to themselves to grow, learn and take a breather. I am finding this to be true with virtual classes as well.”