The coronavirus pandemic has led to stressful situations for individuals and communities around the globe. Quarantining for months on end, worrying about the health and safety of family members, facing the loss of a job or income, balancing work and kids' virtual or remote learning – these circumstances can all impact one's mental, physical and emotional health in a variety of ways.
The behavioral healthcare industry has seen its own share of challenges in 2020, including an increase in the need for services for those struggling with substance abuse and mental health disorders. There's no doubt the COVID-19 crisis is only exacerbating these issues, especially for those already suffering.
What is Behavioral Health?
Behavioral health is an umbrella term that includes both physical and mental health, and looking at the behaviors that can influence each.
For example, if a person is obese, a behavioral health specialist looks at the behaviors that contributed to the obesity and ultimately led to a negative impact on their physical health. However, mental health is also an extension of behavioral health, as changing the behaviors or thinking patterns in individuals with some types of mental health issues can help them better cope with their conditions.
Behavioral healthcare services include mental health counseling, marriage and family counseling, treatment for addiction, as well as services from social workers, psychiatrists, neurologists and physicians.
The Psychological Effects of COVID-19
It's important to remember that everyone reacts differently to stress and stressful situations. While some individuals may thrive and go into action mode to take care of themselves and their loved ones, others may struggle, fall into depression, or turn to alcohol or drugs to cope.
During a health and economic crisis like COVID-19, a person's background, community, financial situation, amount of social support, and well-being and emotional state can all play a role in how he or she responds. Fear, anxiety and uncertainty about the future may be overwhelming to many people throughout a global pandemic. Social distancing rules and quarantining can lead to feeling isolated, alone and deepen feelings of depression. According to the CDC, some of the most common reactions to the stress of the pandemic include:
Worry over financial and job situations and the health of loved ones
Problems concentrating and sleeping
Changes in eating habits
Escalating chronic health problems and mental health conditions
Increased substance abuse
Behavioral Healthcare: Coping during the Coronavirus Pandemic
Studies are just beginning to be conducted about the effect of COVID-19 on mental health issues, which may lead to an increased demand for behavioral health services. A recent poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation revealed that up to 30% of the population in the United States might develop new behavioral health conditions as the pandemic continues. This should not be a major surprise, considering the same poll stated that 72% of Americans say their lives have been disrupted in some way by the outbreak. For many, there is no end in sight to these disruptions, and many people also fear the worst is still yet to come.
Many behavioral health centers are taking extra precautions to keep both employees and patients safe. Face-to-face visits can be limited by utilizing telehealth services, which can be just as effective for most types of outpatient behavioral healthcare. Telehealth encounters can be tailored to individual needs while helping limit exposure to COVID-19, which is especially critical for those who may be at a higher risk for contracting the virus. Additionally, some individuals who wouldn't normally meet with a counselor may actually seek help through telehealth services, as the anonymity it provides can be more appealing.
Healthcare systems in countries throughout the world have taken offering access to mental health support and services seriously throughout the coronavirus pandemic. Treatment plans are evolving and allowing individuals a chance to feel empowered and take back an aspect of control when they need it most.
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