COVID-19 is a physical disease—but it has been affecting mental health across the world. However, it’s not the only trigger of mental health challenges at this time. Here in the US, a stressful political season, social protests, and dramatic natural disasters unfolding coast to coast are just a sampling of issues impacting American citizens.

World Mental Health Day 2020

In recognition of these trends and situations, our focus for this year’s World Mental Health Day (October 10) is how to create more access to and education about the mental health support our patients, practitioners, and communities need. Within this post, we’ll share tips and resources to help hospitals and clinicians improve accessibility and efficacy of mental health interventions.

Anxiety & Depression Symptoms Increased Rapidly

To quickly get oriented to the essential nature of mental health discussions and interventions in this time, consider data the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) and the Census Bureau found in their Household Pulse Surveys from April 23 to July 21, 2020. Americans’ responses to these surveys uncovered information about their experiences with COVID-19, including any anxiety and depression symptoms. In that time frame, symptoms of anxiety disorder in adults 18 and older rose from 30.8% to 36.1% and symptoms of depressive disorder from 23.5% to 29.6%. To help compare these numbers to “normal” conditions, the NCHS found in its National Health Interview Survey last year that during January-June 2019, 8.2% of adults 18 and over in the U.S. had symptoms of anxiety disorder and 6.6% had symptoms of depressive disorder.

This significant—but not shocking—increase in symptoms of just two of the many mental health illnesses that people around our country and world struggle with drives us to ask the question: how can health systems, hospital leaders, and clinicians help pave a healthy way forward? 

Improving Accessibility of & Education About Mental Health Services & Support

Having diverse, affordable, accessible resources is step one, but the populations in need still need to know these resources exist and why they are beneficial. Here are a few ways to help with both steps.

  • Proactively suggest virtual mental health resources to your community via your digital tools (website, social media, patient portal, etc). Include on this list your facility’s or system’s own list of mental health practitioners, resources you’ve made, and more. If you need a few more items for your toolbox, here are 13 starter ideas:
  1. Downloadable book: My Hero is You: How Kids Can Fight COVID-19
  2. Activity book: Coping After Disaster
  3. Illustrated guide: Doing What Matters in Times of Stress
  4. Free and confidential treatment: Helplines, health centers, and other resources
  5. Video: 5 Things About Staying Mentally Healthy
  6. Tips: Please Don’t Forget About Your Mental Health While Fighting Racism
  7. ASL Video: Managing Stress and Anxiety
  8. Article: Taking Your 'Mental Health' Temperature
  9. Mobile applications: The 7 Best Mental Health Apps of 2020
  10. Blog post: 10 Ways to Stay Healthy and Grounded During COVID-19 Chaos
  11. Tips: Ways to Manage Anxiety and Stress
  12. Article: 16 Telemental Health Resources for Practitioners and Patients
  13. Illustrated guide: Basic Psychosocial Skills: A Guide for COVID-19 Responders
  • Partner with local businesses, government officials, shelters, food banks, and other community organizations or groups to help address their main concerns and share resources similar to those noted above. Consider creating and printing a summary of the key points, most helpful activities, and most important contact numbers to make information gathering even more accessible for lower-income groups.
  • Make sure you take care of and continually educate your own workforce. This certainly takes the shape of showing constant compassion, rebuilding trust, addressing their stress and anxiety, offering therapy, creating quiet rooms, and other support measures. It also means ensuring that they are aware of the mental health battles that many of their patients may be enduring and inequities they may be facing, especially this year. Here are nine resources to consider sharing with your staff and clinicians:
  1. Stories from the field: Providing mental health and psychosocial support during the COVID-19 pandemic
  2. Five strategies to combat unconscious bias
  3. COVID-19 and suicide
  4. Stress & Trauma Toolkit for Treating Historically Marginalized Populations
  5. A meta-analysis of risk factors for depression in adults and children after natural disasters
  6. The risks of social isolation
  7. Psychological Consequences of Admission to the ICU (subscription)
  8. The psychological impact of intensive care
  9. Mental health: strengthening our response

Conclusion

Improving mental health resilience and stability for communities across the country (and world) must be a priority; the disasters of this year have proven that time and time again. If you’re looking for additional support in how to communicate with your communities and partner with your local businesses to improve overall patient engagement and health, SCP Health should be your first call. Let us know how we can help at 888-902-3627 or business_development@scp-health.com.