Mental health is an issue many Americans have struggled with, even before the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, people must deal with issues that are compounded further by the isolation and uncertainty that goes along with the pandemic. On top of that, they must deal with those mental health issues in a safe and socially-distant manner.
Paul Henfield, assistant clinical director at Life Solutions South in Cleveland, and Laurie Mandel, owner of Concierge Treatment Centers in Beachwood, said telehealth is a great alternative to in-person mental health appointments. The relatively new mode of therapy allows patients and mental health professionals to communicate through Zoom, Facebook, FaceTime and other online means of communication.
While this allows for safer communication between patients and health professionals, Mandel said that it is also a time-saver for many people.
“It’s much more preferable for the patient,” Mandel said. “I would say close to 100% of my patients prefer telehealth because you don’t have to worry about traffic, you don’t have to worry about a lot of time off of work.”
Although Mandel and Henfield both said telehealth is a great tool, it may not be the best way to communicate for all age groups.
“I think it affects adults more,” Henfield said. “It’s difficult to incorporate telehealth with young children. I think it’s different for them and they may not have a grasp of the technology”
Mandel added, “I try to tailor my patient base to the age groups that I feel would be beneficial. So I won’t take kids, because I think kids may need to be more on-site. They’ve got enough issues with Zoom calls. I would not want to be another Zoom call for the child.”
While the pandemic is affecting all age groups in different ways, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found young adults seem to be affected disproportionately. A CDC study found that 74.9% of adults age 18 to 24 experienced at least one adverse mental or behavioral health symptom, and 51.9% of adults age 25 to 44 experienced it.
Henfield said a lot of these statistics could be blamed on loneliness and isolation
“We are seeing an increase in telehealth and anxiety because people feel cooped up,” Henfield said. “A lot of our people do not have good support systems to begin with.”
One of the ways that Mandel’s office is providing much-needed support systems is by equipping patients with at-home vital sign monitoring. The patient can take their vital signs, upload them to their computer and the mental health professional is able to monitor the vital signs remotely.
“It’s essential now, especially since we’ve been in this thing for nine months, to be seeking help,” Mandel said. “And I have so many patients of mine that are seeing me for the first time. ... It just makes it a much smoother transition for someone who might be nervous to venture out or uncomfortable in other surroundings.”