“It’s important people acknowledge their feelings and seek support if they need extra help.”
So said Anastasia Taylor, executive director for Alliance Child & Family Solutions, in an interview with NBCDFW. With the coronavirus pandemic still surging and protests over social injustice still campaigning, Taylor’s statement resonates with us all. We are living through a tumultuous time in history and it’s having serious effects on our mental health.
People who have contracted Covid-19 are suffering more than just physical ill-health. A study published last month in Brain, Behaviour and Immunity found that over half of the patients treated for Covid-19 were found to have at least one mental health issue. Even if you have been lucky enough to stay physically healthy throughout this pandemic, it does not mean that your mental health has remained unaffected. The fear, confusion and destruction we have been exposed to over the last few months is triggering stress, anxiety and depression in the general public. In May, the nonprofit Well Being Trust published research suggesting that the consequences of the pandemic, including widespread unemployment, social isolation, dread and an uncertain future, could lead to a surge in “deaths of despair” (e.g. drug overdoses, alcohol abuse and suicide).
The brighter side to this dark news is that most mental health conditions are treatable, through counselling and psychotherapy. Reaching out and speaking to a professional can help people work through their negative feelings and understand the core of these problems. However, people often think of therapy as an expensive luxury that they can do without. While I agree that therapy can be expensive, it is not solely a luxury for the wealthy.
Taking care of your mental health is as important and necessary as your physical health. In the same way that we factor the cost of gym memberships or yoga classes into our monthly budget, we also need to invest money in our wellbeing. Think about this the next time you calculate your monthly budget. Consider how much money you can afford to put towards your wellbeing. It might be worth using an app to help you organize and automate your budget.
Don’t be put off by the thought of expensive therapist fees. Check your health insurance to see if some therapeutic costs are covered in your plan. Below are five affordable therapy options that you can also look into. These options are available online, through video chats, phone calls and online forums, so you can get treatment from the comfort of your home and stay socially-distant.
- Local schools / universities
If you are a student, you should be entitled to counselling services provided by your school or college. Some schools extend these services to teachers and staff. Each therapy/counseling center is different and will provide counseling for a range of mental health issues. Even if they cannot facilitate you, they should have information on where you can find help.
- Sliding scale therapists
Sliding scale therapists are psychotherapists and counsellors who adjust their hourly fee to help make therapy more affordable for clients. All mental health practitioners are trained to treat general issues, like anxiety and depression. However, not all specialize in treating specific disorders (e.g. PTSD, OCD). People seeking help for these types of conditions may benefit from finding a specialist who will slide their scale. You can search for sliding scale therapists who practice in your area through directories like Psychology Today.
- Wellness apps
There are a variety of wellness apps available that offer help in different ways. Apps like Headspace and Calm are great for teaching basic mindfulness exercises. Taking time to be mindful and to mediate, even for just a few minutes a day, can improve sleep and reduce stress. These apps will help you factor in some much needed self-care into your daily routine. There are also apps like Talkspace and Betterhelp that will connect you with an online therapist who you can communicate with through video calls or text.
- Online support groups
Many people find peer support a helpful tool that can aid in their recovery. Support groups connect you with others who are going through a similar experience. They are online communities where you can hear other people’s stories and ask for their opinions. Online support groups can be found through discussion boards, blogs, and social media sites like Facebook. Online groups specifically helping people deal with concerns due to Covid-19 can be found on Mental Health Match.
- Crisis hotlines
Some mental health emergencies (e.g. suicidal thoughts, sexual assault, and domestic violence) require immediate psychiatric care and attention. If these crises arise, hotlines can be called at any hour of the day. These hotlines are usually free of charge, staffed by trained volunteers and professionals who provide emotional support and can connect you with assistance. Psych Central offers a list of hotlines across a wide range of issues that you can contact today.
Even if none of these options appeal to you, please take the time to look after your mental health. Simple actions like taking a break from screens, connecting with friends, eating healthier or having a regular sleep routine can do wonders for your mental health. Please reach out to people you trust and share your feelings. Try to be there for others when they need help, listening to and supporting them. We are all trying to navigate this crazy world together and we need to help each other!