Thank you, therapists

Mental Health is Hard to Manage Right Now. Therapists Are Here to Help.

With so many initiatives now offering free or heavily discounted services, therapists are answering the call to ensure support and wellbeing for those in need.

This spring, Carly, a freelancer from Brooklyn, New York, experienced a shift in her relationship to mental health care.

For many, the rise of the coronavirus pandemic has brought unaddressed mental health issues to the surface. Unsure how to tackle these obstacles alone, Carly decided to seek help in managing her anxiety and depression. “After years of telling myself therapy was out of my budget, the COVID-19 crisis compelled me to stop treating my mental health like a luxury and try in earnest to seek the support I require,” Carly says.

Over the course of the last two months, the world has shifted to an unrecognizable landscape as many struggle to cope amidst the chaos. By now, most of us have come to accept vital safety practices, like social distancing, working from home―for non-essential workers, when possible—and practicing adequate hygiene per CDC recommendations. However, the effects of this pandemic scale far beyond physical concerns: COVID-19 is a global trauma giving rise to or exacerbating pre-existing mental health obstacles like depression and anxiety. And though physical precautions are necessary to flatten the curve, access to mental health resources can be equally vital to maintaining both individual and community safety during this time.

With routines and support systems thrown into disarray and day-to-day circumstances proving more challenging than usual—as millions of people grapple with unemployment, the loss of loved ones and businesses, and other life-altering challenges—many are looking for guidance and support that meets the emotional magnitude of this moment.

Thankfully, the COVID-19 crisis has kicked open the door to destigmatizing therapy as a necessity. With so many initiatives now offering free or heavily discounted services, therapists are answering the call to ensure support and wellbeing for those in need.

Shifts in the mental health landscape

Last month, thousands of mental health professionals volunteered to offer free services to New Yorkers as the city became the nation's COVID-19 epicenter. A recent surge in teletherapy interest has yielded more opportunities for individuals to access support. And, with more than twenty percent of Americans now unemployed and rates of people uninsured are spiking by the day, these shifts in mental health care access have ushered in a new paradigm at a time when people are facing unprecedented overwhelm.

“After years of telling myself therapy was out of my budget the COVID-19 crisis compelled me to stop treating my mental health like a luxury and try in earnest to seek the support.”

Thankfully, finding an online therapist is easier and more accessible than ever, and can be done without ever having to leave the house. For Carly, experiencing anxiety and depression while being in quarantine compelled her to find a therapist who could help her get through the moment. Because she doesn’t have medical insurance, a sliding scale therapy option proved to be a viable option for getting mental health relief.

“I found online sessions on a sliding scale of $30 to $60 dollars,” Carly says, underscoring the fact that there are affordable options out there—regardless of your insurance status. “Within an hour, I found a therapist I vibed with and set up our first appointment.”

Stepping up to the plate

Margot Reilly, a Portland, Oregon-based trauma therapist, has continued her regular sessions throughout the crisis. Teletherapy has made it possible to continue providing support for clients and has even inspired previous clients, who may have filtered off over the years, to come back.

“I have a lot of old clients reaching out and people wanting to connect more,” Reilly tells Supermaker. “I’m really grateful and glad to be able to be there for people. With the fear and uncertainty and isolation, it’s such an important piece to be taken care of and acknowledged.”

Though some of us may already have a support network of family and friends who we can count on during this time, seeking professional, therapeutic support to hold space for feelings and worries can be key to staying well during this pandemic. “Even if this isn't the silver bullet for curing all my mental and emotional challenges,” explains Carly, “right now when there's little to distract myself from my internal monologues and worries, I feel grateful to have an outlet designed to make space for these things—even if it is digital.”

"With the fear and uncertainty and isolation, it’s such an important piece to be taken care of and acknowledged.”

Beyond traditional therapy, many alternative communities are also filling the need for therapeutic support. Lindsay Branham, a Ph.D. candidate in Psychology at Cambridge University, is the co-founder of WIDEN, a community that offers contemplative spiritual practices and gatherings.

“Since COVID-19 hit, we have developed a host of online offerings including free guided meditation four days per week, and weekly digital gatherings which include a mix of music, teachings from spiritual leaders, writing, reflection, and community,” Branham tells Supermaker. She has also volunteered for New York State’s Office of Mental Health COVID-19 Emotional Support Hotline and notes that being of service during this crisis is paramount as we face this global trauma together.

It’s brave to ask for help

Finding a therapist you can trust could feel more essential now than ever, and while being unable to meet in person might not be your preference, online therapy has seen a recent uptick for good reason. If you have a therapist you were seeing regularly before COVID-19 and want to continue sessions, just ask. Chances are, they’re figuring out or have already established a virtual method for connecting.

If you are looking to start out with a new therapist, places like Mental Health America and NYC Well have compiled resources where you can browse apps, websites, and online communities for mental health support. MyWellbeing offers free, personalized matching services to provide prospective clients with remote therapists, and some platforms, like Open Path Psychotherapy Collective, have dedicated themselves to connecting clients with therapists offering affordable care through online sessions on a sliding scale.

Other support networks―for those in recovery from addiction―like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA), and Overeaters Anonymous (OA)—are also offering online meetings. With so many mental health resources out there, finding a resonant match for your needs is easier than you might think.

No matter what form it takes, mental health support has become a staple in the lives of countless individuals as we collectively adjust to this new reality. And, thanks to the mental health workers and other wellness communities offering resources, support in many forms is increasingly available to those who need it.

“I feel relieved,” Carly concludes. “Right now, therapy feels like an undeniable step in the right direction.”

If you are experiencing anxiety or depression and are in need of immediate support, you can call the NAMI HelpLine, 1-800-950-6264.

Ivanna Baranova is a Guatemalan-Slovak poet and writer living in Brooklyn. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Blush Lit, Cosmonauts Avenue, Los Angeles Review of Books, Newest York, and elsewhere. She is the author of CONFIRMATION BIAS (Metatron Press, 2019).

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