by Megan Korn, Recruiter and Human Resources Leader
Thinking about a career in the mental health field?
If you’re motivated by helping others, becoming a mental health professional could be your calling. As a mental health professional, you step in to help people overcome their life challenges. You can be a source of hope by providing guidance and strategies that enable others to clear obstacles, achieve their goals, and believe in themselves. You can change lives for the better.
In terms of career potential, the field offers many career paths, including social worker, counselor, psychiatrist and psychologist. Better yet, the job prospects are exceptionally promising. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the job growth outlook for substance abuse, behavioral disorder and mental health counselors and for social workers is well above average.
However, careers in the mental health field are not for everyone. If you’re exploring what mental health career is right for you, you should first ask if this field is a good match. You can start by looking at some of the soft skills that are called into play every day.
Soft skills are the non-technical skills that are needed for success in the workplace. All careers require a mastery of some soft skills, like time management and meeting your commitments. In some fields, soft skills complement technical skills. But in the mental health field, the soft skills can be just as important as the technical skills—if not more so. They also play a major role in your career satisfaction.
Before pursuing a career in this field, ask yourself these six questions.
Do You Like Working With People?
Teamwork and relationship building are foundational to mental healthcare. Working with clients is a given. But depending on your career path, you may also coordinate with other healthcare providers—such as physicians, nurses, psychologists, psychiatrists and social workers—as well as partner agencies, such as housing and employment. No matter which path you take, the ability to communicate clearly, to follow up, to take the lead and to manage complex details are all skills you’ll frequently lean on.
Do You Have Empathy and Patience?
Compassion and empathy are keystones to achieving results in this field. Even if you don’t have personal experience with what a client is going through, you need to be able to listen and offer guidance. Patience and perseverance go hand-in-hand with this. People do not change overnight. You will need to work with them over the long haul to address their needs. While the small victories are tremendously rewarding, this is not a field for those who need instant gratification or who are easily discouraged by setbacks.
Do You Enjoy Problem Solving?
] If you are interested in this field, you likely enjoy solving problems. In terms of working with clients, problem solving requires active listening, critical observation, critical thinking and coordination with others. To develop effective strategies and treatment plans, you’ll need to listen to what your clients are telling you—and pay attention to what they are leaving out.
Do You Have a Strong Work Ethic?
Helping people be their best selves is only one component to working with clients. Behind the scenes, a lot of record keeping and follow up takes place. Depending on your caseload, you could be maintaining files for dozens of clients. This requires a high degree of organization and planning, as well as the ability to be self-directed.
Can You Separate the Personal From the Professional?
Professional detachment is a must in this field. Your clients may engage in behaviors or make decisions that you do not agree with on a moral level. You may be challenged by different perspectives. However, you need to reserve judgment and meet your clients where they are to help them. Likewise, you need to set healthy emotional boundaries between your personal and professional lives—in both the physical and digital worlds.
Are You Adaptable?
No matter what career path you choose, no two days are alike. Mental health providers often need to adjust on the go. You may need to work weekends and evenings. You may need to be on call. You will always need to adapt your approach to your clients and their needs. While this is a positive for those who thrive on change, it can also be cause for stress and even burnout. Stress management is a key tool that mental health professionals need to master.
Finding a Good Fit for Your Career
We may be a bit biased, but we believe a career spent helping others is a virtuous undertaking. And the field is in critical need of qualified, compassionate providers.
If you think the mental health field is right for you, the next best step is to thoroughly research the career paths that most resonate with you. Questions to ask yourself include:
What kind of populations do you want to work with?
What type of setting do you want to work in?
How much time are you willing to invest in post-secondary education?
What type of schedule do you want to establish?
What is your desired salary?
What are the licensure requirements in your state?
Most careers in this field require at least a bachelor’s degree and a license. Your career goals may also require you to pursue a master’s degree or higher. Learning everything you can about where an academic program can take you before you apply is the best use of your time and money.
Have questions about your career or interested in joining our team? I’m always happy to talk with prospective therapists. Contact me at 888-830-0347.
Megan Korn is Compass Point’s Recruiter and Human Resources Leader. Megan has a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. She started her career as a nurse in medical surgery and oncology, before shifting to a career in healthcare recruiting. When she’s not recruiting and supporting specialized providers for our team, Megan enjoys the great outdoors, time with her family and taking her dog for walks.
Seven Strategies for Making Your New Year’s Resolutions Last
by Kalpana Parekh, MSW, LISW-s
Millions of Americans made resolutions on New Year’s Eve to do better and achieve more in 2021. Within the next 30 days or so, most of those resolutions will be abandoned. Studies suggest that 80 percent of people who set resolutions on Dec. 31 fall back on old habits by mid-February.
If you’re in that 80 percent, don’t lose heart. Our collective struggle with keeping New Year’s resolutions suggest the problem may lie elsewhere—like with the tradition itself.
Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail
We set New Year’s resolutions because it’s a natural point for a fresh start. But achieving a life goal is not as easy as turning the page on a calendar.
“Resolution” is a strong, demanding word. For resolution, we need passion, clarity and inspiration. Yet often, our New Year’s resolutions are too big or vague. We expect change now. And we don’t give ourselves rewards along the way.
Successful goals require planning, process and patience. When we don’t have the right supports and mindset in place, we get frustrated and give up. And then we do it again the next year without understanding why our New Year’s resolutions fail in the first place.
Setting Goals That Stick
If you find your resolutions are getting wobbly, don’t give up. You can still adapt your approach. Here are seven research-based strategies for setting and keeping goals—no matter what time of year you make them:
Create a Vision for Your Best Life
Experiencing the best of your life doesn’t happen by accident. It takes reflection and planning. It also helps to connect your goals to your purpose, rather than just an outcome.
For example, instead of resolving to achieve a specific weight, you can set a target of being healthier. From there, you can develop a plan that incorporates smaller goals, like exercising 30 minutes a day and cooking healthy meals four days a week. Within a few weeks, these goals will become healthy habits—and those healthy habits will become a lifestyle.
Thinking about your goals in this way will make them more sustainable. It will also help you maintain balance. Instead of getting frustrated and quitting or doubling down in an unhealthy way, you can focus on gradual progress.
Above all, be kind to yourself. Developing a new habit takes time. It requires both mental and physical effort. Celebrate the wins as they come, and have grace with yourself if you stray from your goal.
If you’re feeling stuck, consider meeting with a therapist. Compass Point’s clinical experts can provide guidance and support to overcome obstacles and achieve your goals. Get started by calling or requesting an appointment online. It could be the first step to unlocking your potential.
How to Breakout from Job-Related Burnout
by Alexandria Fields, MSW, LISW-S, DBTC
Have you reached your limit on work/life stress? Do you lack motivation and energy to get through your to-do list? Feel like there just aren’t enough hours in the day? You’re not alone. Many of us have had to manage massive upheaval in our work lives in the past year.
However, if the physical and emotional barrier of going to work is starting to feel overwhelming, you may be suffering from job-related burnout. Unsurprisingly, therapists and other mental health providers are seeing an increased incidence of burnout right now, including among our own ranks.
Job-related burnout can have a serious toll on your physical and emotional health, but there is hope. In most cases, burnout is relatively easy to treat.
How to Identify Burnout
Burnout is most often caused by ongoing stress from being overscheduled or overworked. It can also result from a disconnect between workload and compensation—that is, when the financial reward doesn’t make up for the hours or effort you’re putting in.
The signs of burnout include:
Alyx Beresford is a Licensed Independent Social Worker with Supervisory designation. She obtained her Bachelor’s degree from the University of Cincinnati and her Master’s degree from the University of Kentucky. Alyx is the director of the DBT® Center at Compass Point and is a facilitator of DBT® skills training classes. She is a blogger and entrepreneur who is passionate about helping others and their mental health. You can read more of her work on her blog, Your Mental Restoration.
What to Know Before Becoming Your Own Boss
In short, you have greater independence to focus your talents on work that brings you joy. You may even discover that you can increase your income.
But asking if you should go out on your own is only half the question. You also need to determine if you can—that is, if you are financially ready. When you are an employee, you meet with clients and receive a check. When you open your own practice or become an independent contractor, your income is less stable. You need to have enough cash on hand for start-up costs. It takes time to ramp up a client base. And you still need to cover your day-to-day requirements, like housing, food and transportation.
By taking the time to get your finances in order before you make the leap, you’ll be more likely to land on both feet. Get started with these four tips:
#1 – Determine Your Start-Up and Ongoing Expenses
- Health benefits
- Office space
- Furnishings and office supplies
- Technology and software (including for charting and accounting)
As you build your financial plan, keep in mind that many of these expenses are not one-time costs. As you build out your plan, make sure to include other costs that crop up throughout the year, such as continuing education.
#2 – Know Your Financial Needs
If you haven’t already, establish your personal budget. You’ll need to factor in your requirements—such as housing, food and utilities—as well as your wants—such as eating out or taking a vacation. Remember that you’ll also need to set aside cash for unexpected expenses as well as for long-term goals, like college funds and retirement.
Then, combine this data with your projected business expenses and compare against your desired rate and schedule. If the two don’t align, you’ll need to start making adjustments.
#3 – Budget for the Business Cycle
When you go out on your own—whether as an independent contractor or by opening your own practice—you can earn a higher billable rate. But if business is slow, your income shows it. In addition, if you decide to open your own practice, “therapist” is just one of many hats you’ll wear. You’ll also need to set aside time for marketing, scheduling, billing and collections, bookkeeping and credentialing. All of this will eat into your billable hours.
In short, you’ll need to be ready for unplanned downtime. That requires setting aside enough cash during upswings to have a cushion for temporary downturns or time away from the office.
#4 – Don’t Forget Taxes
The good news? Independent contractors and small businesses are not required to pay taxes to the state of Ohio on income less than $250,000. In addition, you may qualify for an array of deductions, including for a home office, mileage and health insurance.
Your best bet is to retain an accountant you trust before you go out on your own to ensure you understand your tax liability. An accountant can also help you prepare quarterly payments and annual returns and ensure you are in compliance with all applicable tax laws.
The Best of Both Worlds
For example, Compass Point handles everything from marketing to scheduling to billing for its contractors. You’ll have access to furnished office space in nearly a dozen locations as well as a digital platform for remote counseling. Compass Point even takes care of credentialing.
As a Compass Point therapist, you can set your own schedule. You’ll have access to client leads as well as a team of compassionate professionals with whom you can collaborate. You can also gain peace of mind knowing that when you take time off, someone is answering the phone in your absence. And with Compass Point’s good-fit model, you’ll be matched with clients who are the right fit for your area of focus.
As a Compass Point therapist, you’ll still be required to report your own taxes. But the professionals at resource partner Stevens & Associates will be available to provide guidance on taxes and accounting.
Interested in learning more about working with Compass Point? Visit our hiring page to learn more.
Nine Steps You Can Take to Alleviate SAD Symptoms
spring and summer, it most often occurs during fall and winter. Regardless of the season, SAD is not something that you need to “tough out.” Treatment is available.
- Feeling depressed nearly every day
- Feeling hopeless
- Extreme fatigue, even after getting lots of sleep
- Overeating, especially high-carb treats and sweets
- Weight gain
- Difficulty concentrating
- Maintain (and Grow!) Your Social Connections. COVID-19 is
limiting in-person gatherings, but there are still many ways to
connect with family and friends. Pick up the phone, schedule a Zoom
session, get together safely outside or send a note or greeting card.
Research shows that when you send a letter of gratitude to
someone, it elevates your mood, makes the recipient feel good and
strengthens the relationship
- Treat Yourself. Make time to do the things that bring you joy,
whether it’s listening to music, baking or cooking, meditating,
reading or even coloring.
- Be Creative. Sometimes breaking out of tired routines can shift us
to a more positive mindset. This is a great time to create new
traditions, take up a hobby or revisit that list of things you’ve always
wanted to do. Paint a picture, try your hand at knitting, build a
birdhouse or take an online class on cake decorating—the
possibilities are endless.
- Exercise. This can be hard to do when you lack energy, but a little
bit of activity every day can make a world of difference. If you do not
feel safe going to a fitness club or studio right now, there are many
online resources you can use for at-home workouts or yoga sessions
- Get Outside. When the sun is out and the temperatures are
tolerable, give yourself permission to go for a walk, hike or run. Just
being out in the sun can lift your mood, and the Vitamin D you gain
from the sunlight is good for your health
- Use Mindfulness. Mindfulness is about being in the moment by
using such tactics as visualization, positive affirmation and calming
music. A search for mindfulness activities online will provide plenty
of strategies you can use.
- Watch What You Eat and Drink. Eat healthy foods, cut back on
the carbs, drink plenty of fluids and abstain from alcohol and drugs.
If you need help to get through the season without partaking in
drugs and alcohol, a professional can help you.
- Engage in Positive Psychology. We are wired to focus on our
problems—it’s evolutionary. Positive psychology seeks to shift that
mindset by focusing on activities and habits that make you happy.
Searching for positive psychology online will reveal a trove of
resources to help you.
- Try Light Therapy. Light therapy involves sitting in front of a light
therapy box that emits very bright light for 20 minutes or more a
day. Improvements may occur within two weeks of treatment, but
you need to stick with it for the whole season.
If you continue to struggle, then reach out to your physician, a counselor, a social worker or a psychologist for help. It is their job to listen, support you and help you find the resources you need to cope.
If you don’t feel secure visiting a therapist in person during the pandemic, then consider tele-therapy. It is safe, effective and convenient. There are many tele-therapists at Compass Point who are accepting new patients now. Compass Point also offers an online scheduling system
for new clients so that you can be matched with a best-fit clinician and schedule an
appointment at your convenience.
Kassey is a licensed independent social worker. She holds a master’s
degree in Social Work from the University of Toledo. Her treatment
philosophy is informed by many disciplines both within and outside of
standard treatment models. She keeps motivational interviewing, the
strengths-based perspective, systems theory, reality therapy and solution-
focused therapy in her counseling toolbox. Contact us to see if Kassey is
accepting new patients.
Mary is a licensed independent social worker. She has a bachelor’s degree
in Sociology and a master’s degree in Education from Xavier University.
She also has a master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Iowa.
She provides a safe, relaxed space for individuals, couples and families to
comfortably work on the goals they set for themselves. She will help you
clarify your goals and determine how to use your strengths and
therapeutic interventions to achieve them. Contact us to see if Mary is
currently accepting new clients
Getting the Most from Your Insurance Benefits at Year End
Not sure if you’ve met your deductible? The best way to find out is by contacting your insurance provider. If the thought of calling your insurance company is cause for anxiety, you’re not alone. Figuring out your insurance plan can sometimes feel like trying to learn another language.
But the more you know about your plan benefits, the more you can take advantage of them. After all, your insurance plan is there to keep you healthy and well. Make sure that it works for you by following these four steps before calling your insurance company:
You deserve to have someone to talk to who can help you learn to manage your personal
challenges. But it can’t be just anyone. To ensure you make progress, you need the right person. That’s why we do our best to provide the best fit, the first time. Because a good fit can make all the difference in helping you feel better.
- You live in Ohio
- You have a smart phone, tablet or computer with internet connection
- The pandemic has affected your day-to-day life
-Changes have caused you stress, anxiety, etc.
This group will cover different mental health topics including tips, tricks and resources we can use to build awareness, motivation and coping skills.
Keeping a schedule during the summer will help not only you still be sane during this time but also give your child(ren) the stability they need during this time. A routine will help your child(ren) have some predictability during this time of uncertain. The schedule does not have to look like boot camp, but a loose schedule.
Create a visual schedule and for younger children – including pictures!
● Sit down with your family at the start of summer and create a “Summer Bucket List.” This can help build excitement and allows your kids to provide input as to how they would like to spend their time.
● Utilize themes to help spark your creativity, but also establish a sense of consistency throughout each week:
○ Messy Monday – do an art project with finger paints or practice writing in shaving cream, or make a mud pie!
○ Wet Wednesday – visit different pools or splash pads or have a water balloon fight in your backyard!
○ Fun Friday – explore a new playground each week or do something different like visit the virtual zoo or the virtual aquarium! You get the idea!
As our summer activities are going to look different with limited summer camps, vacations, and fun gatherings; but that does not mean you cannot have fun at home!
Metro Parks of Butler County have an updated list of the parks that are open and closed with guidelines https://www.yourmetroparks.net/covid-19
Great Parks of Hamilton County have an updated list of the parks that are open and closed on https://www.greatparks.org/covid-19
Warren County Park DIstricts have all their parks open with restrictions https://www.co.warren.oh.us/parks/
Five Rivers Metropark of Montogomery County have all their parks open with restrictions https://www.metroparks.org/alerts/
Varsity Tutors are offering FREE week-long virtual summer camps Ages: 5-18 Price: FREE Dates: June - August https://www.varsitytutors.com/virtual-summer-camp-catalog
Operation Exploration: Backyard Biosphere Virtual Day Camp Ages: 8–12 Price: $25/camper Dates: May 26–29, 2020, 9:30 a.m. https://www.greatparks.org/discovery/children/day-camps
Joffrey Ballet Ages: 9-16 Price: $145 per week Dates: June 15-19, June 29-July 3, July 13-17 http://joffrey.org/academy/programs-and-divisions/summer-camps
Music Institute of Chicago Ages: 8-Adulthood Price: Varies Dates: June-August https://www.musicinst.org/2020-summer-programs
Cub Scout Adventure Box Age: 1-6 grade Price: $55.00 per box Dates: June-August https://scoutingevent.com/160-adventurebox
On this virtual field trip from Dairy Council of California, students will learn all about dairy farming, including how milk and dairy foods are produced and the nutritional benefits of dairy products. https://www.healthyeating.org/Schools/Mobile-Dairy-Classroom/Farm-to-You-Virtual-Field-Trip
The Cincinnati Museum Center has developed a lot of videos for your child(ren) to continue learning during this time. https://www.cincymuseum.org/wonderzone/
There are so many amazing online options when it comes to zoos that we couldn’t narrow it down to just one. Most zoos and aquariums have live webcams in some of their most popular exhibits. San Diego Zoo: https://zoo.sandiegozoo.org/live-cams Smithsonian’s National Zoo: https://nationalzoo.si.edu/webcams Denver Zoo: https://denverzoo.org/zootoyou/ Memphis Zoo: https://www.memphiszoo.org/animal-cams Australia Zoo: https://www.zoo.org.au/animals-at-home/ National Aquarium in Washington D.C.: http://samuraivirtualtours.com/example/nadc/index.html Georgia Aquarium: https://www.georgiaaquarium.org/webcam/ocean-voyager/ Monterey Bay Aquarium: https://www.montereybayaquarium.org/animals/live-cams Tropical Reef: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F109TZt3nRc
Learn about a variety of different farms including pigs, grain, and minks just to name a few. https://www.farmfood360.ca/
Take a tour of the Boston Children’s Museum. https://www.bostonchildrensmuseum.org/museum-virtual-tour
Smithsonian’s National Museums of National History with current and past exhibits: https://naturalhistory.si.edu/visit/virtual-tour
The Metropolitan Museum of Art has 26 galleries available to view right from your home. https://artsandculture.google.com/partner/the-metropolitan-museum-of-art
Explore the sky above us with Stellarium on their star map. https://stellarium-web.org/
Google Earth has made virtual tours of National Parks across the country. https://email@example.com,-94.20828246,312.21005962a,12000000d,35y,0h,0 t,0r/data=Ci0SKxIgMzVhNjc1YmQ0NjVjMTFlOTg0Yjg1NTMyNWRjMDk2MzQiB3ZveV90b2M
Go to the Channel Islands in California to watch our National bird sit on her nest. https://www.nps.gov/chis/learn/photosmultimedia/bald-eagle-webcam.htm
Travel the world and explore the nature that the earth has to offer. https://www.nature.org/en-us/about-us/who-we-are/how-we-work/youth-engagement/nature-lab/ virtual-field-trips/
Walk famous trails of Yellowstone park. https://www.nps.gov/yell/learn/photosmultimedia/virtualtours.htm
On live webcams; witness Old Faithful and the Upper Geyser Basin in the Yellowstone Park. https://www.nps.gov/yell/learn/photosmultimedia/webcams.htm
Learn about what it takes to be a service dog with these live streams of puppies being trained! https://explore.org/livecams/warrior-canine-connection/service-puppy-cam
The Great Lakes are a huge staple in our country, learn more about them through a field trip. https://www.greatlakesnow.org/virtual-field-trip/
Interested in Goats, the Beekman 1802 has a goat live stream: https://beekman1802.com/pages/the-goats
Explore art around the world with https://artsandculture.google.com/
Visit Ellis Island to learn about the Statue of Liberty and tour the museum. http://teacher.scholastic.com/activities/immigration/webcast.htm
Explore cities all over the world, jump out of a plane at 10,000 feet, and jump in the ocean to swim with the sharks. https://www.360cities.net/
DIY is a safe environment with step-by-step videos that contain no ads. The site is free for 14-days then it is a monthly subscription. The videos range in age-appropriate of 3-16. Have your kids be creative and use their imagination this summer. https://diy.org/#courses
The Cincinnati Zoo has videos of learning to go along with crafts of over 20 of their animals. http://cincinnatizoo.org/home-safari-resources/
Nature Hunt: Summer is the perfect time for children to observe and enjoy nature for the whole family. Come up with a list of flowers, birds, plants, insects, and much more for your child(ren) to find in your backyard or in the park. Taking pictures of all your finds to share with others.
Water Games: Everyone get ready to get wet, play tag using a hose, transfer water from one bucket to another with only a sponge, jump around in the sprinkler, play soggy dodgeball, and water balloons.
Family Book Club: Everyone gets a book and shares what they have learned or the storyline with the family on a designated day.
Family Movie Night: Go around the family members each time to choose the movie; so no one gets left out. Enjoy healthy snacks with blankets and pillows.
Backyard Camping: Pull out the tent, sleeping bags, flashlights and enjoy your backyard. Or your living room if you are not fond of the bugs outside.
Jigsaw Puzzle: Complete a puzzle that the whole family likes then once it is complete glue it to put up within your home.
Northwestern has courses over the summer to allow your child to continue learning and even earn High School Credit. Ages: 3-18 Price: Varies Date: June-August https://www.ctd.northwestern.edu/courses?program_type=550&season=560&sort=alpha
San Diego Zoo Global Academy Ages 13+ Price: Free Date: All Summer https://sdzglobalacademy.org/coursewereheretogetherfreespecies.html
Super Soccer Stars is creating opportunity for your child to keep up with their soccer skills and develop more skills to show off when they get to the field. Ages: 8-18 Price: Varies Date: Present till August http://newyork.supersoccerstars.com/digital/
Baketivity sends a box of ingredients for your child to make a dessert for 4 weeks. Ages: 8-16 Price: Varies: one-time box and then 4-week camp Date: Ongoing https://baketivity.com/camp/
Chess New York City has moved its learning to online! Ages: 4-18 Price: Starting at $18 Date: Ongoing https://chessnyc.com/
Best Buy Geek Squad Academy Ages: 10-18 Price: Free Date: Ongoing 4 activities https://corporate.bestbuy.com/geek-squad-academy-at-home/
Camp WIT is a camp that empowers teens to become leaders and entrepreneurs. Ages: 13-18 Price: Free but needs an application and Zoom interview Date: June 1- June 26 https://corporate.bestbuy.com/geek-squad-academy-at-home/
The Nature Lab has developed curriculums on how to help our planet be the healthiest it can be. Grades: K-12 Price: Free Date: Ongoing https://www.nature.org/en-us/about-us/who-we-are/how-we-work/youth-engagement/nature-lab/
I am a National and State of Ohio Board Certified Licensed Professional Counselor. I received my Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Bryan College and obtained my Masters in Clinical Health Counseling along with a certification in Child and Adolescents and Parent Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) from Richmont Graduate University.
“Our society is definitely in a collective state of trauma,” said Jonathan Porteus, PhD, a licensed clinical psychologist who oversees the crisis and suicide hotline in Sacramento, CA. Unlike posttraumatic stress disorder, which surfaces after a trauma has ended, the country is only starting to grapple with the pandemic’s psychological fallout, he said.
“We do see an emerging potential crisis,” said Karestan Koenen, PhD, a professor of psychiatric epidemiology at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, during an online forum this week.
Another recent report, released Friday from the Well Being Trust, said the pandemic could lead to 75,000 additional “deaths of despair” from drug and alcohol misuse and suicide due to unemployment, social isolation, and fears about the virus.
A recent poll of more than 3,100 WebMD readers found that 26% said they felt a sense of trauma from COVID-19.
Koenen, who has studied other major disasters, sees problematic differences this time, including how long-lasting the pandemic may become and how it has affected the whole world.
“We know that social support is so important to buffer the effects of disasters, to help pull people out of disasters, and here, we see that because of physical distancing … we’re sort of robbed of some of that social support, so that’s extra-challenging.
“In terms of this specific situation, we’re really treading new ground.”
Mental Health’s First Responders
At the nation’s crisis and suicide hotlines, counselors are seeing the first waves of emotional distress. Callers have flooded the phone lines to talk about health fears, job losses, relationship strains, and lonely days spent in isolation.
Calls to the Sacramento crisis line increased 40% from February to March, according to Porteus, the CEO of WellSpace Health, which operates the hotline. In a year-to-year comparison, April’s call volume was 58% greater than in April 2019, he said.
Lauren Ochs, MA, a counselor who takes crisis calls in St. Louis, MO, has also talked to many more people since the pandemic started, averaging 25-35 calls during her 8-hour shifts, she said. “About 80% to 85% at least mention COVID. That might not be their primary problem, but some way, somehow, they’re affected by it.”
Calls also have risen significantly at the San Diego Access and Crisis Line in California, said Program Manager Heather Aston.
“We’ve seen an increase in more anxiety-driven calls,” Aston said. Some people are worried about COVID-like symptoms. “They want to know where can they go to get safely tested.” Others are concerned about family members. One woman called for advice on how to help a sister who had stopped eating and drinking and was having paranoid thoughts about COVID-19, Aston said.
In a recent opinion piece published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Sandro Galea, MD, MPH, DrPH, a professor at the Boston University School of Public Health, warned of an upcoming wave of mental disorders because of coronavirus.
He noted that “large-scale disasters, whether traumatic (the World Trade Center attacks or mass shootings), natural (hurricanes), or environmental (Deepwater Horizon oil spill), are almost always accompanied by increases in depression, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), substance use disorder, a broad range of other mental and behavioral disorders, domestic violence, and child abuse."
The COVID-19 pandemic would likely produce a similar “overflow of mental illness,” he said.
He cited examples:
- 5% of people affected by Hurricane Ike in 2008 met the criteria for major depressive disorder in the month after the hurricane.
- 1 in 10 adults in New York City showed signs of major depressive disorder in the month following the 9/11 attacks.
- Nearly 25% of New Yorkers reported using more alcohol after the attacks.
- Communities affected by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill showed signs of depression and anxiety.
- The earlier SARS epidemic was linked with increases in PTSD, stress, and psychological distress in patients and health care workers.
The mental health effects can happen immediately and last over time, he wrote.
The pandemic also comes at a time when people already struggled to get mental health care, often due to cost, lack of access, and a shortage of providers. As people who had been getting help before stay-at-home orders found their care interrupted, some providers have begun to offer telehealth services.
Charles Jones, the CEO of MDLive, a large telehealth provider, told MedCity News that his company has seen increased demand for behavioral health services from patients who are stressed out about health or work issues. Cigna, one of the largest providers of mental health services, launched a toll-free, 24-hour help line for the public to speak to behavioral health specialists.
From isolation to anxiety to excess drinking, coronavirus has touched almost every area of life, said Lan Nguyen, a suicide and crisis services program manager for the hotline in Santa Clara County in Northern California.
For many callers, community shutdowns have bred a deep sense of isolation, he said. “People complain that they are stuck in the house all day. They don’t know what to do.”
On the home front, relationships can be strained, Porteus said. “Families are kind of a tinderbox, especially in confined areas.” Children may now face a greater risk of abuse, especially since they can no longer find respite at school. “There are a lot of family dynamics that are not healthy, and now kids have to be in them full-time,” he said.
The same goes for victims of domestic violence, according to Porteus. “People can’t get out of their homes, so they’re more enmeshed with the perpetrators than ever before.”
The St. Louis hotline has heard from many struggling health care workers and others, Ochs said. “I recently talked with an eighth-grade teacher who was in a lot of emotional distress about the school year ending early,” Ochs said. “I don’t think any teacher was really prepared for the school year to just stop.” Not only was he grieving the abrupt loss of his students, but he had little chance to say good-bye. “He was a teacher in a high-poverty area, so it’s hard to reach out to [his students]. It’s hard to Zoom with them, it’s hard to make contact with them.”
Those who have lost jobs or been furloughed have called about financial worries, according to Nguyen.
Besides the financial impact, losing a job can be emotionally devastating, Porteus said. “Our identity is really hit and sometimes, it feels catastrophic. Many of the people who are calling don’t know who they’ve become. They’ve lost what they feel is everything, and they’ve also lost their social context.”
Recently, the San Diego hotline helped one older man who had called in about losing his job as a chef, Aston said. “He had roughly $20 in his checking account and he was suicidal.”
Intense stressors like job loss and fears for one’s life and health can contribute to substance abuse. The Sacramento hotline also has gotten more calls from people struggling with alcohol or substance problems, Porteus said. Overall, alcohol sales have gone up nationwide, and now, some restaurants will deliver alcohol with takeout food orders.
“One thing [counselors] are noticing, especially with older adults, is ‘Yeah, I’m drinking. Why not? I’m not going anywhere. I don’t have to drive. I don’t have all the normal constraints while I’m around people,’” Porteus said.
At a time when coronavirus efforts have battered many state budgets, it could be difficult to fund future mental health services. But some experts are looking ahead.
In his JAMA article, Galea wrote: “Scaling up treatment in the midst of crisis will take creative thinking.” He suggested training lay people to provide psychological first aid, as well as “helping teach the lay public to check in with one another and provide support. Even small signs that someone cares could make a difference in the early stages of social isolation.”
He also advocated for more telemedicine mental health visits.
In its report, the Well Being Trust urged policy makers to consider three areas to combat mental health issues:
- Addressing unemployment
- Making it easier to get mental health care
- Integrating mental health care with primary care
“If the country continues to ignore the collateral damage -- specifically our nation’s mental health -- we will not come out of this stronger,” said Benjamin F. Miller, PsyD, chief strategy officer at Well Being Trust.
Even if an epidemic of mental illness is looming, counselors say that people are resilient and can strive to protect their emotional well-being.
Experts offered these tips:
- Try to eat and sleep well.
- Try to stay socially connected, even if you can’t see others in person.
- Limit news and social media.
When people are in crisis, he said, it’s helpful to go online to learn about “distress tolerance” skills, which involve accepting that some problems are beyond one’s control. Instead of becoming mired in feelings of unfairness and anger, people can learn healthier ways of thinking and coping when they can’t escape painful situations.
For those who have lost jobs, he suggests looking up interest inventories -- questionnaires that ask you to rate your enjoyment and interest in a wide variety of activities -- to explore career options. “You can figure out the kinds of things that you’re good at and start getting a sense of what your next steps might be."
Taking constructive steps can help to counteract a downward spiral, he said.
“People look at the pandemic and they tend to be drawn to the negative. If we can help shift people to look at the positive, it really helps because we know that neurons that fire together wire together,” Aston said. “We’re going to be able to see the positive more quickly.”
Shared from WebMD
Katherine Kam wrote this story while participating in the USC Center for Health Journalism‘s 2020 California Fellowship.
WebMD Health News Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD on May 08, 2020
Coping with Covid
Group start TBD - TBD groups are planning on running for another cycle but are waiting to have enough registrants to launch a date. Thiink of it as signing up for our waiting list.
Thursdays from 6:30-8:00 PM
Group Lead: Charles (C.J) Potter
$50 Private Pay or Insurance billable
with - Aetna, Anthem, Cigna, Humana, MMO, Tricare and UHC
You will be contacted after registering to be set up in our system, provide insurance information and to discuss billing.
This is an online group and will utilize zoom to meet virtually. It is available to anyone within the state of Ohio.
If you are feeling the effects of this pandemic, you are not alone. We are here, and we can help.
Compass point is offering tele-therapy sessions for clients in Kentucky and Ohio.
We also have a covid19 specific support group called Coping with Covid that meets virtually.
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