It has been months since COVID-19 has been declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization and, during that time, nations have entered and emerged from lockdowns, travels across borders were strictly limited, and, to this day, many businesses remain closed. Millions of people in the United States and around the world have been affected by the deadly virus.
Mental Health Crisis During the Pandemic
There is a growing concern over the impact of the current public health and economic crisis on mental health. Already, a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that 41% of Americans are suffering from mental health issues because of the pandemic and the measures placed in an effort to contain it.
Of the 5,142 respondents, 31% said that they have experienced symptoms of anxiety and depression, 26% have trauma or stressor-related disorder symptoms, 13% had started or increased substance use and 11% have seriously considered suicide.
There is a mental health crisis in the U.S. However, social distancing and stay-in-place orders are preventing people from seeking help.
This is the time to turn to technology to provide aid to those struggling with mental health issues.
One the Community Level
Communities that currently have co-responder or crisis intervention team programs in place will benefit from using a platform that allows them to access data right on their own mobile devices. With a tap of a smartphone, law enforcement and mental health professionals can immediately make a referral to a receiving facility to prepare for the arrival and treatment of a patient who is struggling with a behavioral health crisis.
When law enforcement, health providers, and non-profit organization can share data, response to delicate situations can significantly be improved. Members of the community can receive better care.
Because the data is on the cloud, it can be accessed at any time by law enforcement, social workers, or mental health professionals.
Wellness at Home
Those who are staying at home can address or prevent a mental health crisis. The American Institute of Stress recommends the use of wellness and meditation apps to help individuals manage overwhelming feelings of stress and fear.
Headspace, a popular meditation app, is offering free content that is specifically designed to address the difficulties of living through the pandemic.
Balance, a new meditation app, is giving away a free one-year subscription to anyone who wants it. Interested users should download the app and then send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The practice of meditation is being encouraged during the pandemic because it has the capacity to reduce stress, control anxiety, enhance self-awareness, improve sleep, and promote mental and emotional resiliency.
Access to Therapy
Another way technology can be used during the pandemic is by connecting patients with mental health professionals. While it has existed for a while now, online consultations became more prevalent this year.
Therapists were able to meet with their patients regularly over Zoom, Google Duo, and other video platforms.
Previous research revealed that there is no significant difference between therapy delivered remotely versus face-to-face meetings in terms of interaction. However, experts warn that the quality of treatment should regularly be assessed to ensure that it produces positive outcomes only.
Perhaps one of the best ways technology can minimize the impact of the pandemic on mental health is by connecting people with their loved ones.
COVID-19 spreads through close contact which means that social interactions should be limited. The public has been advised to stay indoors as much as possible. Many people, especially the elderly who are most vulnerable to the disease, have not seen family members in months.
Calls are bridging the distance in the safest way possible. Even if birthday parties have been canceled this year, people can still celebrate special occasions together without the risk of infection.
Millions are already keeping in touch with family and friends over the internet.
Zoom, which became the most popular video software during the pandemic, saw a 30-fold increase in use in April. The company is expecting sales this year to reach $1.8 billion.
The pandemic is a stressful and traumatic experience. Its effects will only be exacerbated if people do not take care of their mental health. While distancing is necessary to prevent infection, and with the pandemic showing no signs of stopping soon, individuals are encouraged to reach out to loved ones and mental health professionals to address or prevent experiencing symptoms of mental health issues such as depression. The use of available technology can keep people connected during lockdowns and even if there are restrictions in place.