Recent numbers are indicating a downward trend in new COVID-19 infections, thanks in large part to the fact that over 160 million Americans have received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to the Center for Disease Control. Still, many Americans are undeniably still concerned about physical and mental health care during the coronavirus pandemic.
External to the confirmed 33.2 million cases of coronavirus since March within the United States, the average self-reported mental well-being for Americans has declined as a consequence of social-distancing practices, according to a recent Gallup poll.
Challenges in Getting Mental Health Care During the Coronavirus Pandemic
Such statistics come at a time when mental health services are becoming increasingly inaccessible, as doctors offices remain closed (or adopt a remote talk therapy model), and droves of workers lose their employer-sponsored health care (or its cost becomes prohibitively expensive).
One report estimates that two to three million have likely lost their insurance as a consequence of the pandemic, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. According to the report, many turned to Medicaid and marketplaces to offset their lost coverage.
As a greater percentage of the population continues to worry about their mental well-being throughout the coronavirus pandemic, and with money remaining tight in many households, it’s likely that many Americans will require affordable psychological treatment in the coming months.
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How to Find Affordable Mental Health Services
Finding affordable mental health care during coronavirus, even with insurance, can be a daunting endeavor for many — but with the right amount of research you may be able to find inexpensive resources in your area.
If you’re currently working with a licensed therapist or similar professional, but fear you will be unable to afford their services going forward, see if they offer sliding scale payment.
This strategy worked well for CentSai contributor Melanie Lockert, who previously wrote about her struggles with finding affordable mental health care for CentSai, as well as in her book Dear Debt: A Story About Breaking Up With Debt.
“After doing some research, I found out that the local graduate counseling program offered community clinics,” Lockert recalled. “When they said they could see me for $5 per session, it felt like a miracle.”
For individuals on a tight budget, uninsured, or both, such local centers can be a blessing when most therapists seem out of financial reach.
“There are local community mental health centers that provide inpatient and outpatient care for people who are uninsured or indigent,” says psychiatrist Dr. Lindsay Israel, chief medical officer at depression treatment clinic SuccessTMS. “These facilities are state-funded and are designed to care for people in financial need.”
“If you do not have access to a community mental health center, then your local county health department can help,” she added.
Israel and other medical professionals recommend individuals seeking help turn to the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) as a resource for additional information.
“If payment and insurance resources are an issue, we recommend NAMI, a national mental health advocacy and support organization with many resources, including hotlines and counselors,” says Dr. Bal Nandra, chief medical officer at Chicago-based treatment facility IV Solutions.
Other mental health resources can be found online via the Anxiety and Depression Association of America’s therapist directory and the Health Resources and Services Administration’s online database of federally funded health centers, many of which operate on a pay-what-you-can basis.
For those without access to individualized care, there are still a number of affordable, if not free, measures one can take to alleviate pandemic-related stress. This can include group therapy, meditation, and other mentally hygienic practices.
“Group therapy is often just as effective as one-on-one therapy, and many therapy groups have migrated online during the pandemic,” says licensed clinical mental health counselor Katie Lear. “Even without insurance coverage, this can be a cost-effective option.”
Looking for therapy groups via sites such as SupportGroupsCentral and Mental Health America can help you find web-based mental health resources. But if you’re having trouble finding therapy that works for you, there are steps you can take to help yourself.
Alternatives to Professional Mental Health Care During the Coronavirus Pandemic
“If it is taking you a while to find quality mental health care, do not underestimate the benefits of good, old-fashioned self-care to start helping you in the meantime,” Lear adds. “Reflective activities such as meditation and journaling can help you work through your feelings independently, whether or not you are seeking a therapist for additional help.”
“These aren’t substitutes for therapy,” Lear adds, “but for some people, these steps can make a big difference.”
Follow CentSai’s COVID-19 page for additional resources and news related to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
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