Mental Health Awareness Amidst COVID-19

By now you are well aware of how the COVID-19 pandemic has turned the world upside down. 

While the negative economic and societal effects are well known, one negative effect that is underreported is the severe toll COVID-19 has taken on the mental health of millions of people throughout the world.

During times of crisis, individuals are known to resist change and fear the unknown. The pandemic has most likely brought feelings of anxiety and uncertainty to your life. With all the changes and adjustments to daily routines, it has also brought on financial pressures, social isolation, unhealthy habits, etc. As a result, there has been a noticeable increase in cases of depression, anxiety, and substance abuse, especially within the United States.    

Approximately, 1 in 25 (10 million) American adults live with a life-threatening medical condition, such as diabetes and heart disease. The presence of these chronic conditions can greatly increase the risk of developing mental health problems. 

According to the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI), millions of people worldwide suffer from mental health issues each year. The United States is one of the most affected areas, as 1 in 5 adults will have some sort of mental illness during their lifetime. 

These statistics prove to be staggering, but, with resources and help, this difficult and challenging time can be conquered together! Footprints to Recovery has proven that through awareness and treatment, people with mental illness do not have to struggle any longer. 

May is Mental Health Awareness Month

Especially during COVID-19, mental health specialists need to examine how common mental illness is, and the physical, mental, and social impact that it has on these various groups of individuals coming from all different walks-of-life.  

The month of May is a powerful time for raising public awareness about mental health, reducing stigma, and advocating for better access to quality health care. 

Setting aside one month a year to bring attention to this crisis is as essential as breathing. Since 1949, May has been named Mental Health Awareness Month by the Mental Health America organization. They have educated and encouraged people to spread the word about the importance of mental health and provide valuable resources to those in need. 

At Footprints to Recovery, especially during this trying time, we have made it our team’s mission to continue educating individuals about mental health, stigma, and its overall prevalence. We do so by participating in various community and grass-root events and treat all forms of mental illness through our evidence-based clinical and therapeutic treatment modalities. 

Through a comprehensive treatment approach, each recovery plan is tailored to each patient’s needs and goals. Our addiction treatment programs such as outpatient treatment, include methods including medication management, individualized therapy, group therapy, family therapy, and relapse prevention. 

Most importantly, through our education and advocacy, we will help people and their loved ones who may be suffering in silence and do not know where to turn to, find the resources they need to do so. 

The importance of advocating for mental health issues cannot be stressed enough. Footprints want to inspire those who are suffering from mental illness and psychological challenges to share their stories, demonstrating that other people are facing similar things. You are NOT alone in your struggles! 

Mental Health and Mental Illness

An individual’s overall mental state, meaning emotional, psychological, and social well-being is a huge determinant of how we make decisions, handle stress and obstacles, and relate to others. 

What is Mental Health? 

A person’s mental health, as well as physical health, has proven to be of equal importance throughout every stage of life, from childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. How we think, feel, and act are greatly influenced by emotional, psychological, and social well-being.  

These mental illnesses affect everyone differently and greatly affect all aspects of someone’s life. This includes the ability to relate to others and carry out daily functions every day. 

What is Mental Illness? 

When a person has a mental illness, they have a condition that is defined as one that affects your mood, thinking, and behavior. The common mental disorders include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Schizophrenia 
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

People’s mental health does change over time and can depend on a variety of factors. Therefore, when the demands of life placed on a person exceed abilities to cope and function normally, this is a major indicator that their mental health has been impacted. 

Therefore, professional intervention may be needed to garner an accurate diagnosis. Any mental health issues that are left undetected or untreated can cause severe complications to arise or make a condition worse. 

Mental Health and Mental Illness: The Difference

Although the terms mental health and mental illness are used interchangeably, they are not the same. It is important to understand, that a person diagnosed with mental illness such as the ones above, can still experience periods of well-being. Vice versa a person can have poor mental health, but not be diagnosed with any sort of mental disorder. 

Treatment for Mental Illness: Telehealth

Especially for those suffering from mental health issues, this pandemic can make life feel out of control and leave people unclear what to do. Many patients who need mental health care cannot access it when they need it, or choose not to seek treatment for fear of social stigma. This is because people with mental illness tend to feel discriminated against or feel guilty, embarrassed, or burdened financially. 

Dual Diagnosis and Co-occurring Disorders

It is very common for a person with a pre-existing mental illness to turn to drugs and alcohol as a means to cope with their symptoms and struggles. 

Individuals who become dependent or addicted to substances such as alcohol or opioids to help with chronic pain can develop a mental disorder. When addiction and mental illness coincide, this is known as dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorders. 

Use of Telehealth Technology to Treat Mental Illness

During a time of social distancing, while medical care is a necessity and can be accessed in-person, that option is not always possible for some. While this method is preferred, as most treatment for mental illness relies on patients being able to connect emotionally with their physicians, as well as have a physical exam, the evolution of technology has been a real game-changer in terms of treatment of mental disorders and addiction. 

Mental health and addiction are serious issues that require immediate care. Thanks to telecommunication technology such as mobile devices and video chat platforms such as Zoom, it has become a revolutionary tool for mental healthcare. 

At Footprints to Recovery we ensure people with mental health issues and substance use disorders (SUD) can receive the care that they need, virtually from the comfort of their own homes via our telehealth services. These services include:

Amidst COVID-19, our telehealth services have been a viable option for patients who cannot receive in-person care. At this moment in time, virtual care may become the norm. Receiving care in this manner is a common concern because relapse during this pandemic is very likely. 

However,  patients who are technology-challenged, lack transportation, and those who live in remote locations can benefit greatly. They can access treatment for their mental health issues without any difficulty. Any access to care for people with a co-occurring disorder is better than an increased chance of relapse, overdose, or death. 

Benefits of Telehealth for Mental Illness

The benefits of telehealth technology include the following:   

  • Telehealth is changing the overall landscape of dual diagnosis treatment.
  • Telehealth helps reduce the gap and shortage of mental healthcare providers. 
  • Telehealth has made mental health services more accessible and convenient to patients in need. 
  • Telehealth services help people avoid mental health stigma, as they can receive treatment in peace and privacy from their own homes.  

The shortage of physicians in the United States, and therefore, care as well, presents a huge problem, especially during this pandemic. The country has finally reduced stigma and has moved towards a better understanding of the importance of mental health treatment.

Stephanie Ballard, LPC, CADC

Currently attending The Chicago School of Professional Psychology's Business Psychology PhD Program with an emphasis in Consulting. Graduate of The Chicago School of Professional Psychology's Masters of Arts in Clinical Counseling Program with an emphasis in Addiction.

Paying For Addiction Treatment 

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), partial or all treatment costs for mental illness and addiction are covered under insurance. At Footprints to Recovery, we work with many commercial insurance companies and provide a variety of other payment options to help people afford the treatment that they need. Our admissions team will help you to understand and verify your insurance plan and the benefits that it offers. 

Footprints to Recovery is Here to Help You

If you or a loved one is suffering from mental illness and/or addiction issues, you are not alone! Help is available and accessible during COVID-19 through our variety of treatment services and programs. Our tools and resources help teach people to look after their minds. 

Recovery from addiction and managing your mental illness takes work and perseverance. With the right rehab facility, medications, treatments, therapy, and a good support system, people with mental illness can lead happy and productive lives.

Mental stigma surrounding mental illness is decreasing, therefore, continued efforts to raise awareness this month and beyond about mental illness is highly encouraged!     

Don’t suffer in silence, and contact us for help today! We are here for you especially during this time of uncertainty. For more resources, and immediate help, you may also reach out to these hotlines in New Jersey: 866-202-HELP or 844-REACH NJ. Remember, this too shall pass, and be kind to your mind!

Stephanie Ballard, LPC, CADC

Currently attending The Chicago School of Professional Psychology's Business Psychology PhD Program with an emphasis in Consulting. Graduate of The Chicago School of Professional Psychology's Masters of Arts in Clinical Counseling Program with an emphasis in Addiction.

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