One in four people across the world will be impacted by a mental or neurological disorder at some point in their life.
Mental health disorders have grown up exponentially following the pandemic and the lockdown whereas the mental health professionals and services have fallen short. There is a soaring increase in mental health cases as people are experiencing living remotely and completely on their own.
Many Americans have been reportedly suffering from sleeping (36%) or eating (32%) and increased alcohol or substance use (12%), caused by anxiety and stress from the Covid-19 and the enforced lockdowns.
Telehealth seemed futuristic once, getting treatment straight from a screen once seemed like a far-fetched idea but it has translated into reality. Telehealth has its benefits and mental health is one area that can use this technology to increase its outreach in times of covid.
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The stigma and prejudice around mental health disorders can be discouraging for many. People get intimidated by the constant pressure of judgment and often are reluctant to seek help thereof.
Telehealth for mental health professionals has changed this around and people are more willing to take an online session with a psychologist or a professional than an in-person session. This has increased the outreach of the services manifolds making it convenient and comfortable for people who otherwise wouldn’t have opted for it fearing the judgment.
The switch to telehealth was abrupt following the Covid-19 and the resulting restrictions and the transition back to in-person has been more gradual. What started as a temporary thing to provide people with professional help during the testing times has been received rather surprisingly well.
The reason behind the popularity of telehealth among patients comes down to the convenience factor. People were locked up inside their houses and relied on the online services for help, they didn’t have to travel for hours to see a professional in a hospital, they didn’t have to make time for the appointment out of their busy day, and could simply turn on their laptops and devices and discuss their problems with a professional.
In normal times, people find it difficult to manage time for counseling sessions. Another reason is that they can get an online appointment from any mental health professional of their choice regardless of where they see patients physically. These are the factors that make telehealth such a hit with patients.
Mental health disorders treatment doesn’t require physical checkups in most cases. The impact of a physical session can’t be ruled out altogether but telehealth and online sessions are as effective as physical ones’ in most cases.
It is not to suggest that there should be a complete disregard of the efficacy of the physical session and checkups but online services should be made available for people who feel more comfortable with those.
This will lighten the burden of the scarce mental health resources available, mental health professionals will be able to assist more patients this way.
The popularity of telehealth will see a rise in the coming years as well. A survey conducted by Price Waterhouse-Cooper found out that 72 percent of the respondents between the ages of 18 and 44 were more willing to get treatment via telehealth instead of a physical option.
Mental health disorders have gone up exponentially in the past few years and not because people are mentally more distressed now but because people have started realizing how important is it to address mental health issues. While the stigma around mental health has started to shatter relatively, the number of mental health professionals is far less than required.
Telehealth is a great option to address this prevalent scarcity. The mental health professionals can treat more patients in less time when done virtually as compared to the physical visits. It saves time and the hassle to travel to treat patients in person.
Telehealth treatment requires a stable online connection and a device. Anyone with a stable internet connection can have access to telehealth which is no less than a miracle for people in remote areas.
People have access to the internet and mobile devices more than ever today even in remote areas. With telehealth, people can follow up on their treatment and sessions easily unlike the physical visits where they have to take out time specifically for it. This increases the chance of a follow-up in most cases.
Behavioral telehealth can be referred to as telebehavioural health, telemental health, telepsychiatry, and telepsychology. It has changed significantly like other areas of healthcare due to the Covid-19 emergency. Mental health providers can offer online and digital services and the nature of those services varies from individual to group types.
Mental health professionals can offer individual therapy, Group teletherapy, and Telehealth treatment for substance use disorder. The procedure is divided into further steps and people can easily access the services when needed.
Telehealth for mental health has been regarded as impactful compared with physical healthcare.
“You can do psychotherapy and mental health care very well if you have a good quality audio-visual connection,” he says. “It’s much easier for people to schedule a visit and they don’t have to drive there and then wait to be seen. I don’t think the mental health system will ever go back to all in-person sessions as long as the insurers keep paying for it.”
This isn’t to suggest that there aren’t any disadvantages. Physical connection with someone is far stronger than virtual and will be preferable for some patients and in some cases but the impact and usefulness of telehealth can’t be ruled out.