For the past several weeks, the Mental Health Association of America (MHA) has been using its unique database to monitor daily increase in anxiety due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the MHA’s screening data, Americans experienced a 19 percent increase in screening for clinical anxiety in the first weeks of February, and a 12 percent increase in the first two weeks of March.
“This [data] suggests that our screeners are not just “worried well.”” says MHA’s COVID-19 response page. “Instead, it represents thousands of people whose lives and sense of well-being are being severely impacted by concerns about the virus.”
It’s Not Just Anxiety
Unfortunately, the mental health toll of COVID-19 hasn’t stopped there. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, nearly half (45%) of adults in the United States reported that their mental health has been negatively impacted due to worry and stress over the virus. As the pandemic wears on, they say, it is likely the mental health burden will increase as a result of measures to control the spread. Isolation, financial distress, and other situations are only a few of the current trends that can result in poor mental health outcomes.
For a large number of Americans who faced mental health problems prior to COVID-19, the news is even worse. “During this unprecedented time of uncertainty and fear, it is likely that mental health issues and substance use disorders among people with these conditions will be exacerbated.” Says the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) brief on The Implications of COVID-19 for Mental Health and Substance Use.
The Direct Impact of COVID-19 on Mental Health
In its brief, KFF touches upon sudden issues faced by everyday Americans, due to social distancing, job loss, and school and business closures. What isn’t mentioned is the issues faced by individuals directly touched by COVID-19 – surviving the illness but left coping with new health issues, grieving the loss of family members, friends, and colleagues, and for healthcare workers, having directly witnessed COVID-19 and its destruction.
Solutions to Growing Staffing Challenges
It’s no secret that America’s mental health system was under pressure, even before the COVID-19 crisis, with wait times for treatment remaining one of the most substantial barriers to receiving care.
Simply put, the system couldn’t support demand, even before COVID-19. And while telehealth and virtual therapy options are increasing in popularity, they haven’t changed the fact that it’s real people- psychiatrists, psychologists, and other licensed mental health professionals, who are needed behind the screens. In many cases, these professionals are barely keeping up – and seek respite from day after day of “doing it all”.
And while telehealth and virtual therapy options are increasing in popularity, they haven’t changed the fact that it’s real people- psychiatrists, psychologists, and other licensed mental health professionals, who are needed behind the screens.
So for staffing managers who seek to keep up with the demand for mental health care due to COVID -19, the time to look for solutions is now. Whether it’s staffing additional staff through a locum tenens agency like Barton Associates, or investing in an easy-to-implement, easy-to-use telehealth platform that can be used by physicians and patients remotely, facilities in all areas of the country have the ability to make a difference for the weeks, months, and years to come.