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  • Easton Gaines, MSEd, PsyD

COVID-19, Mental Health, & Getting Help

Updated: Apr 13

Anecdotally, we have all witnessed (and felt) the languish, monotony, and, at times, the desolation of a pandemic world. A recent study in the Journal of Anxiety Disorders found that American adults in 2020 were four times (!) more likely to have anxiety and depression compared to 2019, with notable increases among young adults, Asian Americans, and parents.


Both anxiety and depression increased and decreased in tandem with the number of COVID-19 cases, and rose during racial justice protests in June 2020 in the US. The increase in mental health challenges underscores the need for more inclusive, accessible mental health care, such as teletherapy and culturally sensitive treatment.



Inclusive and accessible mental health is a social form of justice! This means equal access to mental health services and support, for anyone that needs it in this incredible time. Equal access is not a starting point, but an end product of increased awareness, psychoeducation, financial support & affordability, understanding of the biopsychosocial aspects of an individual, no discrimination or marginalization, and acknowledging, addressing, and supporting the existing marginalized groups.


Getting extra support can often be necessary (and most useful) pre-suffering. Mental health isn’t a binary concept and hence the approach towards seeking help should acknowledge the large spectrum that mental health issues can fit into. Accessing guidance may not always be to solve a problem, but can also be to make one’s good life and experiences even better (not just mental illness but mental wellbeing -- a broad, flexible, and required concept).


Ok, how?


Check with Your Insurance

Check with your insurance provider for local therapists that may take your insurance. You may be able to find a provider in-network that is a good fit with a small co-pay. If you have out-of-network benefits, many therapists can also provide you with paperwork (a superbill) that you can submit to your insurance provider for reimbursement.


Call Your Local University

If you live in a city or a college town, universities are often the best place to get low-cost (or even free) therapy. If you’re a student, you’re usually entitled to at least a few sessions with a campus psychologist or counselor. Most universities will have a graduate training clinic where students are learning to be therapists or psychologists. These clinics are usually open to the public and offer sliding scales fees.


And, good news, when working with a trainee, it means that they are receiving tons of supervision from experienced professionals (I loved my training both in Philadelphia and New Jersey).


Ask About Pro-Bono Services

You have nothing to lose by emailing a few therapists that seem like a good match and asking them if they offer a sliding scale fee based on income or do pro-bono work -- most save some slots in their caseload for exactly that (the ethical code even encourages it!). If they say no, they’re likely to have good referral information about community clinics and other low-cost options in your community.


Check with Your Employee Assistance Program (EAP)

Do you know if your work has an employee assistance program? If so, you may qualify for a limited number of free counseling sessions. Many people are hesitant to ask about counseling at work, but your therapist will keep your information confidential. Employers want their employees to access services and practice good self-care, so never hesitate to talk with your human resources representative about EAP services. These services might also include additional wellness classes or other resources in addition to therapy.


Use Your Community Resources

Community centers, hospitals, schools, and places of worship sometimes offer free or low-cost counseling. Many community organizations also host peer-support groups (groups run by people facing the same issues) and recovery groups which can provide additional care. If you’re unsure where to get started, you can call 211 (a government-established hotline that connects people to community or government agencies) or a local clinic.


Check Out Online Services

If there aren’t a lot of resources in your community, don’t hesitate to try out an online telehealth service. These services can help you flesh out thoughts and concerns you might have before seeking therapy, and many sites will match you with counselors who are a good fit for you.


Here, some online options to investigate:


OpenPath Psychotherapy Collective, a non-profit nationwide network of mental health professionals dedicated to providing in-office and online mental health care—at a steeply reduced rate—to individuals, couples, children, and families in need. OpenPath works through a one-time membership fee of $59.00.


Better Help’s mission, according to the company’s website, is to “make professional counseling accessible, affordable, convenient—so anyone who struggles with life’s challenges can get help, anytime, anywhere.” The service connects individuals, couples, and the parents of struggling teenagers with therapists all over the country.


TherapyDen "unequivocally condemns all forms of othering, racism, and injustice... As a progressive and all-inclusive therapist directory, we will work with allies and partners to make meaningful change within the mental health industry and society as a whole."


PsychologyToday has a wide directory of licensed therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists that you can search for within your area and sort through by preference.


Bicycle Health published an educational guide covering health equity in opioid dependency treatment, specifically the differences in opioid treatment for Black and Latino patients.


Resources for people of color

Access to culture-conscious therapists is important for your well-being. Here are some resources to consider when looking for a therapist:


References:

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