The pandemic has put doctors’ attention on COVID-19 patients. While all hospitals and clinics strove to serve all their patients, they couldn’t help but focus on the COVID-19 cases. The entire healthcare industry became short-staffed as well. To make up for their loss, the few doctors and nurses who stayed were stationed on the frontlines. As a result, marginalized populations were easily overlooked, such as patients with severe mental health disorders.
Mental health patients are considered at high risk for medical comorbidity. This, in turn, makes them more susceptible to COVID-19 than their mentally stable peers. Severe mental health disorders, such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, major depressive disorder, and other chronic conditions, require treatment to prevent relapse and hospitalization. But the pandemic has forced many medical facilities to reduce their services. This led to mental health resources becoming less available.
Now, the healthcare industry has yet another challenge to overcome: the delta variant. With cases rising by the day, mental health patients may continue to be pushed aside. Thankfully, companies serving mental health facilities have introduced ways to ease therapists’ burdens.
One of them is electronic billing. Reputable e-billing providers like Threshold Billing have had great contributions to the mental health community. Their services allowed mental health professionals to stay consistent with their services, especially concerning insurance claims. But what of the mental health professionals without access to this service? More importantly, what are the impacts it left on their patients?
Clinicians Should Stay Proactive
Mental health services won’t be disrupted if they were prioritized in the first place. Since the beginning of the pandemic, clinicians should’ve been more proactive in monitoring the mental health of all their patients. People who got COVID-19, for instance, can also feel anxious, depressed, or even suicidal. Therefore, clinicians should screen them for those mental health issues.
They can monitor their patients’ mental health through telemedicine. Videoconferencing, for example, can support psychosocial services. However, clinicians should also consider any concern on their patients’ part. While telemedicine has been proven to work in treating mental health patients, some patients express worry about establishing rapport, privacy, safety, security, and tech limitations. As such, patients and clinicians should work together to reduce the barriers between them.
Community Outreach Programs
In the U.S., mental health providers and programs have organized food delivery services for vulnerable groups. They ensured the inclusion of mental health patients and everyone else with physical health concerns in their programs.
Agencies supporting mental health patients can mobilize their social support networks and reach local communities where people with mental health issues don’t receive care. Their programs can encourage those in need to seek professional help for their mental health problems.
Provide Resources for Home-bound Patients
Some people taking mental health medications boost their treatments by going on wellness retreats. But since those kinds of facilities are likely closed, they have no other choice but to stay at home. For someone with unstable mental health, being home-bound can trigger symptoms, especially if they’re isolated. Hence, their therapists can give them resources to allow their mental health to stay balanced.
Resources can go from books to videos to online counseling. The key is for therapists to find ways to consistently monitor their patients, especially the extra vulnerable ones.
Teach Patients About Triggers and Boundaries
When counseling can’t proceed as normal, counselors or therapists should exercise more effort in teaching their patients about triggers and boundaries. For example, if a patient lives with someone who often triggers their symptoms, they should know how to stop their triggers before they even feel them. This would help them stay stable even in an environment where a mental breakdown is likely.
Triggers are like red flags. They’re the objects, situations, or people that can encourage a mental health episode. Patients need to be aware of the red flags in their physical environment to manage their symptoms. They can do this by setting boundaries, which will allow them to retreat to their comfort zones during stressful events.
Protect Mental Health Professionals
Mental health patients can’t receive care if their doctors are unavailable. So mental health professionals should also be protected against COVID-19 and its mental health impacts. Like doctors in the intensive care unit or emergency room, they should also wear full PPE when interacting with patients.
They should also get resources that will keep them mentally balanced. The pandemic is a critical time for both patients and doctors, so neither should receive more care than the other. Both mental health patients and professionals should have their well-being constantly monitored during this period.