Mental Health

COVID-19 Puts Strain on Mental Healthcare System, But Help is Available

The challenges of finding mental healthcare during COVID-19  

NBCUniversal, Inc.

COVID-19 is putting strain on the healthcare system in more ways than one, including the mental healthcare system.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, stress during an infectious disease outbreak can sometimes cause the following:

  • Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones, your financial situation or job, or loss of support services you rely on
  • Changes in sleep or eating patterns.
  • Difficulty sleeping or concentrating.
  • Worsening of chronic health problems
  • Worsening of mental health conditions
  • Increased use of tobacco, and/or alcohol and other substances

San Diego psychologists Dr. Elizabeth Stanton says the fear of the unknown can really get to people.

That ambiguity just creates another level of anxiety and concern for what’s going to happen.

Dr. Elizabeth Stanton, licensed psychologist in San Diego

And that fear and other factors are driving many who’ve never felt they’ve needed mental healthcare to get it.

“The biggest thing is just recognizing that you need assistance," Stanton said.

That recognition is becoming more common, according to Mental Health America, and has led to a real uptick in the need for mental health screenings. Mental healthcare professional went from seeing some 2,000 people a day in January to 5,000 people per day in May.

Dr. Stanton says COVID-19 is putting a strain on people who are spending more time together, like couples and families, but also people who are now isolated and alone.

In either case, getting help is vital, she said.

“When you just talk about things, lay them out on the table, work through them it relieves so much of the pressure and the things that are weighing on our shoulders," Stanton said.

But with an estimated 30 to 40 million people in the U.S. out of work, many have no healthcare coverage making help seem out of reach. 

That is not the case, according to the Executive Director of 211 San  The service works with mental healthcare providers who provide free or reduced fee services.

“There are a lot of people in there standing in the gap there to provide mental health services," Stanton said.

Along with free mental health services, there are mental health professionals who will offer services on a sliding scale to help people who can’t afford to pay full price for help.

And during the pandemic many mental health providers are offering virtual sessions for both individuals and groups.

And getting that support can make all the difference in the world at a time like this.

“If we all kind of develop some coping skills to help us get through this we will - we’ll get through," Dr. Stanton said.

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