Mental Health Assistance Is Available – At a Distance

Nearly half (45 percent) of adults across the country say that worry and stress related to COVID-19 are hurting their mental health, according to a new Kaiser Family Foundation brief. Nineteen percent say the pandemic has had a “major impact” on their mental health.

The implications are concerning, particularly for adults who identify as LGBTQ+, who are twice as likely as heterosexual adults to live with a mental health condition, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

With social distancing guidelines in place, supportive spaces for LGBTQ+ individuals are less accessible, and they are more likely to be affected by layoffs and furloughs. Finding a good counselor that offers telehealth sessions is a good place to start.

Pam Kennedy Haga, a licensed professional counselor with Cypress Counseling Group in Brentwood, Tenn., suggests starting at the American Psychological Association’s website, which has a locator service to help people find a state-licensed counselor who is LGBTQI+ friendly. Drop-down menus allow users to focus their search based on areas of specialization, including gender identity and sexual orientation; and practice areas, such as depression or anxiety disorders. 

Most therapists are now offering telehealth sessions on HIPAA compliant platforms like SimplePractice, Haga said. 

“I am doing telehealth, and I think for some of my clients, because they are in the comfort of their home, they are even more able to be vulnerable and open up,” she said. “I think telehealth counseling is here to stay.”

Some therapists are offering a sliding payment scale for those who do not have insurance coverage or are struggling financially during the pandemic. 

Many stressed out people are turning to mindful meditation apps to calm worries and fears. Meditation apps offer limited content for free and more for a paid subscription. HeadSpace, founded in 2010 by Buddhist Monk Andi Puddicombe, is offering a year free for people who are unemployed. 

Ten Percent Happier, created by ABC News anchor Dan Harris, has a free “Coronavirus Sanity Guide,” which includes podcasts, talks and meditations to provide “calm amidst the chaos.” Frontline workers including teachers, healthcare, grocery and food delivery workers, are eligible to access the app for free. 

Free resources for stress reduction abound at the Nashville Public Library, where library card holders can download books on audio, including Harris’ book, Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics and Pema Chodron’s When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice For Difficult Times.

“The stress is real, we are all feeling it,” Haga said. “If you are isolating alone, be sure to seek out support, maybe take a socially distant walk with a friend. And if you are locked down with people, too much connection can be too much, so be sure to carve out the time you need to be alone, to connect with nature, and be quiet.”

If you're struggling with anxiety, depression, grief, or suicidal thoughts, call the SAMHSA National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP(4357) anytime for free, confidential help or reach out to the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.

This article has been supported by a grant from the Facebook Journalism Project for COVID-19 coverage.

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