With COVID-19 spikes, quarantining, telecommuting, home schooling, unemployment, Trump’s latest stupidity, local businesses forced to shut down and an ever-present sense of doom, your mental health is more important than ever.
A recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 45% of adults say that the pandemic has affected their mental health. If you’re not currently in therapy, you may want to consider it now. COVID-19 has made most of us – understandably – scared and worried, and most of the news is really depressing (but it’s hard not to watch).
Many of us are dealing with unemployment or less income, worried about sick friends and relatives and feeling somewhat unsafe no matter where we go. Living in this pandemic is very stressful: it can be really helpful to talk to a psychotherapist (a therapist that you talk to) and get professional help to manage your fears and concerns.
If you have insurance, call the customer service number on the back of your insurance card, find out what they cover and ask them to give you a list of therapists they pay for who are accepting new clients.
If you don’t have insurance, you can ask a therapist if they offer a sliding-fee scale (most of us do right now). There’s also a website called Open Path Collective, where therapists offer sessions for between $30 and $60. During the pandemic, Medicare coverage pays for telehealth visits, virtual check-ins and e-visits.
Most of us therapists have switched all of our patient sessions to online. At this point in time, we’re all used to using ZOOM or its equivalents, so online therapy is no big deal. After working with my clients online now for several months, it’s almost as effective as in-person therapy. And, it’s a lot easier: you can sit at home in your pajamas and talk with your therapist without spending an hour – in traffic – going to and from the therapist’s office.
You may think, “I don’t need a therapist, I have plenty of friends to talk to.” While it may be tempting to talk to your partner, friends or family about your problems, that can be emotionally draining for both of you. Therapists are trained professionals: we are a neutral and objective source of feedback. We can help you gain perspective and we’re legally obligated to keep everything confidential. It’s a lot different than talking with your friends (who are rarely neutral and able to keep what you tell them 100% confidential).
There are apps specifically designed for online therapy that use text and video messaging. BetterHelp, Talkspace and Larkr are a few to check out. A lot of support groups – like Alcoholic Anonymous – are also online now.
I want to give you some free 24-hour hotlines for anyone who needs to talk to someone right now yet doesn’t have insurance or money to spend on mental health counseling. The Department of Health and Human Services has the National Helpline (800-662-4357). There’s a group called Integral Care that run a hotline in 15 languages (512-472-HELP).
San Diego County’s Crisis Line (888-724-7240) is available 24/7. This line is staffed by trained professionals. The Trevor Project (866-488-7386) operates The Trevor Lifeline, a confidential service – via phone or text – that offers trained counselors who provide crisis intervention and suicide prevention services for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning young people under 25. And because this can feel like a really hopeless time, I want to share the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-8255). Please call them if you’re thinking of hurting yourself: there is definitely help waiting for you, no matter what your situation is.
It’s tempting to put your mental health on the back burner right now because there’s so much happening. But, in times like this, you deserve help more than ever, and it doesn’t work very well to continually download your fears and anxiety onto your partner, friends and family: after all, they’re going through the same things too! Instead, get some help from trained professionals. If you have insurance, ask your insurance company to help you find a good psychotherapist. If you don’t have insurance, there are lots of free and low-cost options available. Whatever you do, please take good care of your mental health…you deserve it.