Roughly 43.8 million Americans experience mental illness. It is the third most common cause for hospitalization for people ages 18-44; it is the second most common cause of death for people ages 10-34; and it is the 10th most common cause of death for the overall population. (Rolffs, 3/26/19)
Scary statistics, aren’t they? Wait- it gets even scarier. In 2018, 60 percent of those 43.8 million people suffering from mental illness received absolutely no mental health services whatsoever.
Why is such a staggering type of illness going so largely untreated?
The two biggest culprits seem to be lack of access to care, and lack of ability to get to a facility.
Those in rural areas often struggle to find local specialized centers to provide the type of mental health services they need, so they are left with no care at all.
Even those with access to care can be too hesitant to seek it out.
I should know. I am one of them.
Imagine, if you will, suffering from anxiety. It plagues your everyday life, from the moment you pour the creamer in your coffee to the moment you turn off the light to drift into an uneasy sleep.
You know you need to seek out a professional to help you take control of your anxiety; to show it who’s in charge and stop it from ruling your every move. You need to stop treating your days like a jittery game of chess. But that would require….meeting someone. It would require telling that someone your entire story, in an unfamiliar space, wondering every moment if you’re going to be judged.
Maybe you’re too afraid to make that drive.
Maybe you know as soon as you sit in that chair your breath is going to start coming out in forced, choppy waves and you won’t even be able to speak.
Maybe you know that, right now, you just can’t do it.
Imagine, if you will, that you didn’t have to.
Suppose there was some way to carry out those first few appointments remotely, or to check in between appointments on those days that you just can’t figure out your next move on the chess board.
Sounds like a really neat idea for the future.
Actually, the future of mental health services has already arrived, and its name is Telehealth.
According to Alessandra Rolffs of healthleadersmedia.com, “Behavioral health services are leveraging technology to offer online medical services such as therapy to overcome the barriers of cost, time and stigma….starting to increase access to mental healthcare for more Americans.”
Mental health services that have to be carried out on that slightly over-stuffed couch are a thing of the past. While telehealth is not meant to replace in-person visits, it does give patients a plethora of resources when in-person is just not an option.
The options for providers are varied and comprehensive- using telehealth services, specialists may perform initial assessments through questionnaires; treat patients cognitively via video conference; manage medication; offer online group chats; and provide webinars for clients and providers.
These resources are changing the way the medical field approaches mental health- and breaking down barriers for those of us who do battle with a mental health monster every day of our lives.
There are a ton of statistics available that detail the increase in telehealth use for mental wellness, its success, and all of its facets. But I’m going to stick with this statistic: 1.
I’m going to tell you about 1 patient who has successfully used telehealth services for mental wellness- me.
Because my mental health provider utilizes telehealth, I’ve been able to check in between regular appointments, on days that my anxiety is getting the best of me.
Because my mental health provider utilizes telehealth, we’ve been able to share meditation webinars, check in via email and video conference, and talk whether I’m stuck at work and can’t make my appointment, or I’m heading back from vacation across the country and need a quick appointment to ease my fear of flying.
Because my mental health provider utilizes telehealth, I am finally winning my chess game.
Telehealth for mental health WORKS, and both patients and providers are seeing its vast benefits more and more every single day.
So whether you’re playing the jittery chess game or you’re a professional helping patients declare “check mate” against their mental health monster, make Telehealth your next move.