Telehealth for mental health is one bright spot from the pandemic | Tallahassee Democrat

This article was orginally posted on Tallahassee Democrat by Art Cooksey on May 17, 2021. Click here to read the original article.

May is Mental Health Awareness month. After a year of dealing with a global pandemic, we believe fewer things are more important in 2021 than raising awareness and understanding.

The bad news is approximately one in five Americans are experiencing high levels of psychological distress. Three in 10 say the coronavirus outbreak has changed their lives in “a major way,” according to the Pew Research Center.

Further, a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention looked at a sample of adults in June 2020 and found the stress level reported is extremely high. Devastatingly, more than one in 10 respondents said yes when asked if they had seriously considered suicide in the past 30 days.

But there is a bright spot on the horizon. A growing industry appears to have found its moment in time. As the need for more mental health services arose, for far too many, in-person visits were not an option.

Correspondingly, as more at-home workers turned to platforms like Zoom to meet their occupational or educational needs, the mental health community began to realize this now-familiar means of treatment could also fill in an important gap. It was a match made in mental health treatment heaven.

According to the CDC, during the first quarter of 2020, the number of telehealth visits increased by 50%, compared with the same period in 2019. As more patients – especially younger ones, who are so used to interacting over the internet – become comfortable with the technology of telehealth, providers now find its use for mental health an indispensable tool.

In Florida, lawmakers have led the way with new laws that ensured patient access and privacy, while making sure the use of telehealth would not be a substitute for, but an enhancement to health services. Led by first lady Casey DeSantis and her effective push to bring these services to underserved areas, rural schools and hard-to-reach communities, it is hard to imagine a more perfect formula for success.

Telehealth companies are constantly innovating in an effort to reach and help as many people as possible. Let’s Talk Interactive has been proud to conduct nearly 200,000 online sessions in Florida alone, totaling over six million minutes, since 2018.

Telehealth has been years in the making and it has been longer still for it to arrive in the area of mental health. With such services badly needed – especially in hard-to-reach areas with limited access to mental health professionals – it is a positive thing that the needs arising from the pandemic coupled with the dramatic expansion and acceptance of teleconferencing technologies has brought us into this new era of providing services.

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