COVID-19 and the Rise of Discrimination Against Asian-Americans

The rapid global spread of COVID-19 and the drastic lifestyle changes it has forced upon many Americans has resulted in widespread increases in personal distress. At the same time, fear and anxiety have also been growing amid the heightened racial tensions, attacks, and micro-aggressions against Asian-Americans. An estimated 21 million Americans are of Asian descent.

Historically, vulnerable groups of people or entire nationalities have been stigmatized and negatively associated with pandemics. Most notably, Jews were widely persecuted and blamed for the bubonic plague that killed a third of Europe’s population in the 14th Century. The great flu pandemic of 1918-19 that killed 850,000 Americans and 50 million people worldwide, and whose origin is debated, was named the Spanish flu only because World War I censorship eliminated mentioning it in the media early in its outbreak in combatant countries – but not in neutral Spain. More recently Haitians, then gay men were blamed for the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s. As it is believed that the origin of COVID-19 started with the spread of the coronavirus from animals to humans in “wet markets” within Wuhan, China, American political leadership has reinforced stigmatization and hate crimes towards Asian Americans through exclusionary policies and racially-charged rhetoric.

Racism towards Asian-Americans is not a new topic. Dating back to the 1700s when Asians first arrived in America to present day, Asian-Americans have been faced with constant marginalization, verbal attacks, and micro-aggressions rooted in racism and xenophobia. From the use and exploitation of Asian immigrants during the California Gold Rush in the 1840s to the imprisonment of Japanese-Americans (many of whom were U.S. citizens) in concentration amps in the 1940s, Asian-Americans have dealt with a system embedded with racially motivated discriminatory policies. This in turn, has fostered resentment, racist attitudes, and discrimination against Asian communities, and immigrants in general, throughout American history.

Despite the World Health Organization’s (WHO) official name for COVID-19 or their advocacy for restraint from using cultural references or geographic locations in relation to disease names, President Trump and numerous other government officials and politicians have publicly referred to the virus with terms such as the “Chinese Virus,” “China Virus,” “Wuhan Virus,” and the “Kung Flu.” They have also made multiple public statements using derogatory language essentially “blaming” China for the spread of COVID-19 outside of China and in the U.S. Many have argued that the use of such terminology is xenophobic and increases the risks of hate crime against Asian-Americans through the promotion of stereotypes, bias, and exclusion. Additionally, linguists have established that using the adjective “Chinese” in the term “Chinese Virus” associates the virus with a specific ethnicity, which is highly inaccurate and dangerous. With racial harassment and targeting towards the Asian-American community having already been on the rise even before the President’s remarks, it clear that such rhetoric has failed to serve the community and reinforced simmering racist attitudes and behaviors against Asians.

According to the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) on hate crime data, 47.6% of Asian victims fail to report hate crimes to the police. With such inconsistencies in the level of reporting, it is unclear how severe the prevalence is of anti-Asian hate crimes. As 2020 data from NCVS regarding hate crime statistics is set to be released late 2021, researchers will be able to evaluate the level of increase in anti-Asian hate crimes and assess the level of changes in reporting. This will also help determine victims’ comfort levels in seeking police help.

Although much damage has already been done by the current administration blaming, the question arises as to how we can prevent further spreading of racist attitudes, beliefs, and micro-aggressions towards the Asian community. How can we create an environment that promotes healing instead of finger-pointing to create scapegoats for our current situation? How can we learn from historical events and work to prevent racialized fear in future situations? The current pandemic that has pushed us to a “new normal” is a matter of public health, not one of racial issues. Although the impact of labeling COVID-19 as the “Chinese Virus” may have long-lasting effects on emotional and mental health of Asian-Americans, it is critical that every organization within our country – including employers – confronts these acts of discrimination in order to better protect vulnerable populations.

About the Author

Yeji Jang, MSW Intern, is a graduate intern at Espyr, working in the Network and Provider Relations Department and with Espyr’s Chief Clinical Officer.  A graduate of the University of Georgia with a B.S. in Psychology, and having worked with immigrant populations, she is currently finishing her last semester at Indiana University’s Graduate School of Social Work. After graduation, Yeji will pursue the goal of becoming a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), and then wants to practice clinical social work in a behavioral health setting.

Sources

Anti-Asian Hate Crime During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Exploring the Reproduction of Inequality

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12103-020-09545-1

About Espyr

For over 30 years Espyr, has provided innovative mental health solutions to organizations operating under some of the most challenging conditions. Espyr’s portfolio of customized counseling, coaching and consulting solutions help employers reduce healthcare costs by identifying and addressing employee mental health issues before they require more expensive, long term care. For more information on how Espyr can help your organization, call Espyr at 888-570-3479 or click here.

COVID-19 Pandemic and College Life: What Colleges Can Do to Address Student Mental Health Needs

COVID-19 has created a profound effect on all aspects collegiate life and especially on student mental health. It has brought upon a multitude of social, psychological, and safety challenges for students, on top of the high levels of stress that college students are already facing – even in the best of times. For many, the transition from campus life to remote learning has called for many academic, social, and personal changes for most college students – testing students’ ability to cope with change. It is important that colleges and universities continue to monitor and assess the mental health of students as the nation continues to progress through changes.

Here are recommendations scholars who study student mental health recently made on how schools should address the mental health challenges for students brought on by the pandemic.

Continue student advising via telecommunication means. Expand virtual office hours to create easy access for students who are experiencing the normal stress of college life in addition to the irregular learning environment brought about by COVID-19.

Reduce student stress. By taking a creative and flexible approach to Internship opportunities given the new environment.

Help students adapt research projects to the new normal environments. Encourage university career centers to adopt virtual services to assist students in the economic downturn.

University counseling centers should set up options to continue providing college students with counseling services at a distance (i.e., tele mental health counseling). Tele mental health has been found effective in treating anxiety and depressive symptoms and implementing tele mental health will facilitate the delivery of counseling services to address students’ pressing mental health concerns.

• University counseling centers should also provide options for students to join online support groups that enable them to share common concerns and receive social support. Further, university counseling centers and other departments should develop and pass public health messaging onto students, sharing coping resources, and encouraging them to take action to protect their mental health and wellbeing.

 

About the Author

Norman Winegar, LCSW, CEAP, NCAC II is the Chief Clinical Officer at Espyr. For over 30 years, Norman has practiced in mental health, substance misuse, and EAP settings. He has also worked in leadership positions in both public and private sector behavioral health organizations. An author of four books, he is frequently called on for presentations and as a panelist to share his expertise and experience as a mental health professional.

 

Source

Addressing collegiate mental health needs amid COVID-19 pandemic

Psychiatry Res. 2020 Jun; 288: 113003.

Published online 2020 Apr 17. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2020.113003

PMCID: PMC7162776

PMID: 32315885

Yusen Zhaia,? and Xue Dub

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7162776/

 

About Espyr

For over 30 years Espyr, has provided innovative mental health solutions to organizations operating under some of the most challenging conditions. Espyr’s portfolio of customized coaching solutions help employers reduce healthcare costs by identifying and addressing employee mental health issues before they require more expensive, long term care. For more information on how Espyr can help your organization, call Espyr at 888-570-3479 or click here.

College Students – A Vulnerable Population for Suicide and Mental Health Issues

September is suicide awareness month. One alarming aspect of suicide is its frequency among young people, particularly college students. Defined as self-injurious behavior aimed at causing one’s death, suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people. Annually about 1,000 college students take their own lives. Thousands of their family members are affected by these deaths. Fellow students and faculty are traumatized, and campus life is disrupted. Thousands more commit non-fatal acts of self-harm to deal with extreme emotional pain.

September is also a month when all of America’s colleges and universities are back in session with in-person classes, virtual classes, or some combination of the two. Many continue to offer non-traditional, exclusively on-line programs of study for students who can earn degrees entirely via on-line instruction. But for many traditional college students in their late teens and early twenties returning to college is an emotional adjustment and challenge to their wellbeing. Many of these young people are often away from home, family, and friends for the first time – losing connection to the emotional support system they have known all their lives. They’re living with strangers, in a new setting, and working under intense pressure to achieve. Many have had limited experience with the new autonomy that comes with college life. Autonomy that also brings easier access to alcohol and illegal drugs, and new peer pressure. Their ability to adjust to change is challenged. Their interpersonal skills are tested as they develop a new social support system. They must learn to manage stress in this new environment while often coping with loneliness. They do all this with disrupted sleeping, eating, and exercise patterns. Now add in COVID-19. One can hardly imagine a more stressful situation for young people with limited life experience. This adjustment is made much more difficult for about one-fifth of students – those with some underlying mental health or substance abuse condition.

Obviously, college students are a vulnerable population. Vulnerable for suicide as proven by their high rate of death from that cause. But also vulnerable for mental health and substance abuse conditions in general. Especially so during the COVID-19 pandemic with its unusual and additional stresses. College administrators realize their responsibility for student’s mental health and safety but are faced with the dual challenge of reduced budgets and implementing COVID-19 precautions. What can they do to improve student access to mental health and preventative services and to ensure students’ wellbeing? Here are some suggestions:

  • Survey students and parents. Ask them about their mental health issues, needs, and expectations for campus support.
  • Provide accessible campus wellness activities. Activities that build resilience in students and normalize mental health on par with physical health.
  • Provide easy access to behavioral health screening services. Ones that also provide easy access to counselors.
  • Review on-campus student counseling center’s services, hours of operation, and accessibility. Is there a “waiting list” for services? Is 24/7 access to a counselor available for students with urgent needs? Are services being delivered in culturally competent way?
  • Train students, faculty, administrators, staff, and campus police in mental health first aid.
  • Offer a comprehensive suicide awareness and prevention program for students.
  • Engage rising first-year student early on with supportive services. Services that help him/her bridge the social and emotional transition from high school to college.
  • Include mental health of students in on-line educational programs. (There are about 500 nationally.) Do these students have equal access to your institution’s mental health services? Are their unique needs being addressed?
  • If you have fiduciary responsibilities for student and faculty health and wellbeing, examine your own attitudes and beliefs about sensitive issues like mental health, suicide, and emotional wellbeing. Make sure you recognize your own biases (it’s okay, we all have biases) and recognize how they influence your actions.

 

About the Author

Norman Winegar, LCSW, CEAP, NCAC II is the Chief Clinical Officer at Espyr. For over 30 years, Norman has practiced in mental health, substance misuse, and EAP settings. He has also worked in leadership positions in both public and private sector behavioral health organizations. An author of four books, he is frequently called on for presentations and as a panelist to share his expertise and experience as a mental health professional.

 

Sources

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Mental Health, Substance Use, and Suicidal Ideation During the COVID-19 Pandemic — United States, June 24–30, 2020

https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6932a1.htm?s_cid=mm6932a1_w

Peterson C, Sussell A, Li J, Schumacher PK, Yeoman K, Stone DM. Suicide Rates by Industry and Occupation — National Violent Death Reporting System, 32 States, 2016. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2020; 69:57–62. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6903a1external icon.

Suicide is the Second Leading Cause of Death Among College Students

https://www.safecolleges.com/suicide-second-highest-cause-of-death-among-college-students/

National Center For Education Statistics

https://nces.ed.gov/ccd/tables/201314_Virtual_Schools_table_3.asp

 

About Espyr

For over 30 years Espyr, has provided innovative mental health solutions to organizations operating under some of the most challenging conditions. Espyr’s portfolio of customized coaching solutions help employers reduce healthcare costs by identifying and addressing employee mental health issues before they require more expensive, long term care. For more information on how Espyr can help your organization, call Espyr at 888-570-3479 or click here.

Time Distortion – Another Strange Side Effect of the COVID-19 Pandemic

Have you been feeling like some days take forever? Or that it seems like the Spring was only yesterday? You are not alone. Recent research in the United Kingdom validated what many of us have been feeling – that one strange effect of the pandemic has been a distorted perception of time.

How we perceive the world around us and how we think about those perceptions influences how we feel and behave. And as to time, we all know that time passes at a constant and linear rate (unless of course you are a character in a Star Trek plot). But our subjective experience of linear time is influenced by our activity level and by our emotional state. The pandemic and its restrictions on normal activities has demonstrated that fact.

The British study of 604 participants looked into their perception of the flow of time during the lockdowns associated with COVID-19. The researchers found that more than eight out of ten said they experienced some type of changes to their perception of the passage of time. It found that the description of the distortion generally fell into two groupings. One group experienced time as passing more slowly. People in this group generally were older, reported more feelings of stress or depression, had less tasks to do, and generally felt more isolated and lonelier during the lockdown. Lending a sort of credence to the saying “time flies when you’re having fun,” the second group reported that time seemed to go by faster. This group tended to be younger, have more tasks to be engaged with, and reported less distress associated with the forced restriction of normal activities. The research not only validated what many of us have been feeling about the passage of time, but also demonstrated the powerful impact of loss of routine and our varying adaptation to it.

Here are some tips to re-set your internal clock:

  • Reclaim and commit to a daily and weekly routine. Our brain craves routine and predictability regardless of our age or status.
  • Spend time regularly outdoors. Spending time with nature can help us to relax mentally and outdoor activity is a great stress reducer.
  • Get regular sleep and rest. Not only is good sleep physically and mentally restorative, but regular sleep patterns help adjust our internal clocks.
  • Stay connected to family and friends. “Social distancing” is really physical distancing. Staying involved with family and friends may be a bit more challenging today than normal, but it’s important so we can reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness.

 

About the Author

Norman Winegar, LCSW, CEAP, NCAC II is the Chief Clinical Officer at Espyr. For over 30 years, Norman has practiced in mental health, substance misuse, and EAP settings. He has also worked in leadership positions in both public and private sector behavioral health organizations. An author of four books, he is frequently called on for presentations and as a panelist to share his expertise and experience as a mental health professional.

 

Sources

Perception of Time Has Shifted During COVID-19, New Study Reports

Sara Lindberg, M.Ed.

Verywell News

https://www.verywellmind.com/why-time-is-passing-so-strangely-during-covid-5075438?utm_campaign=list_stress&utm_medium=email&utm_source=cn_nl&utm_content=21312011&utm_term=

 

The Passage of time during the UK Covid-19 lockdown

Ruth S. Ogden

https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0235871

PLoS One. 2020;15(7): e0235871. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0235871

 

About Espyr

For over 30 years Espyr, has provided innovative mental health solutions to organizations operating under some of the most challenging conditions. Espyr’s portfolio of customized coaching solutions help employers reduce healthcare costs by identifying and addressing employee mental health issues before they require more expensive, long term care. For more information on how Espyr can help your organization, call Espyr at 888-570-3479 or click here.

Coronavirus Pandemic Stress and the National Weight Gain

Have Americans gained weight during the Coronavirus Pandemic? Apparently, the answer is yes. A recent Eating Well poll found that 36% of adults had gained weight. All were being very honest in their responses, I’m sure! On average their gain was 12.5 pounds. A WebMD poll of over 1,000 Americans found that 47% of women and 22% of men said they had gained weight during the Pandemic.

The clothing industry is taking notice as well. The trend should be a good one as more weight means new clothes. Some manufacturers are adding larger sizes to their offerings. Perfitly, an app that helps shoppers see how something fits before purchasing it, says shoppers are re-doing their profiles in much larger numbers compared to last summer. More along the lines they see usually in January, after holiday eating results in weight gains.

This is not surprising news. Stress levels among American are high nationally. Normal, easily accessible stress-relieving coping activities like socializing with family and friends, attending faith-based services, and enjoying sporting and entertainment events have been severely restricted. Surging levels of COVID 19 cases and deaths in many areas make returning soon to these once routine activities seem unlikely.

There is a relationship between mind and body that is producing this national bulking up. Each time we experience stress our bodies produce adrenaline and cortisol, often called the “stress hormone.” They cause the body to dump glucose into our blood streams to give us energy. This is the fight or flight response. It helped our ancestors escape saber-toothed cats, dire wolves, short-faced bears, and other giant, hungry predators looking for a snack. We are thankful this mind-body process was so successful for our ancestors; else we might not be reading this. But in our modern life especially with very high stress levels, it leads to regular spikes in blood sugar levels and then to cravings, overeating, and weight gain.

One theme many mental health professionals including myself encourage in their clients, is to focus on what one can change. And not so much on the things we cannot change. We cannot change the societal and public health effects of the Coronavirus Pandemic. Nor can we change the human fight or flight response. But we can take actions that will help us break the stress-weight gain cycle. Here are some tips – see if any might work for you:

  • Drink more water. Hydration is important for many health reasons, including managing stress. Stress causes us to confuse thirst for hunger. If you are suddenly hungry between meals, drink some water before reaching for a snack.
  • Make exercise a daily priority (physician-approved exercise, of course). Exercise is a great stress reducer. Be intentional. Plan regular exercise that fits your lifestyle and health status.
  • Give yourself permission to eat comfort foods – but – select healthier comfort foods as often as possible when you feel especially stressed and hungry. Examples of healthier comfort foods include popcorn, nuts, and tasty fresh fruits.
  • Beside exercise, look for other stress-reducing daily activities that fit your lifestyle and health status. These may include gardening, yoga, meditation, reading, spending more time in nature, and many other simple and accessible activities.
  • Don’t be too hard on yourself. Be your own best friend. Notice successes, however small, and encourage progress.

By the way, awareness is the first step and you just took it! Keep up the good work!

 

About the Author

Norman Winegar, LCSW, CEAP, is the Chief Clinical Officer for Espyr. Norman has worked in the mental health field for over 30 years and is frequently called on for presentations and as a panelist to share his expertise and experience as a mental health clinician.

 

Sources

Eating Well
http://www.eatingwell.com/article/7826694/weight-watchers-pandemic-weight-gain-survey/

WebMD
https://www.webmd.com/lung/news/20200518/webmd-poll-many-report-weight-gain-during-shutdown

U.S. News and World Report
https://www.usnews.com/news/us/articles/2020-07-20/sizing-up-as-pandemic-surges-so-do-waistlines

Verywellmind
https://www.verywellmind.com/how-stress-can-cause-weight-gain-3145088?utm_campaign=list_stress&utm_medium=email&utm_source=cn_nl&utm_content=20871016&utm_term=

 

About Espyr

For over 30 years Espyr, has provided innovative mental health solutions to organizations operating under some of the most challenging conditions. Espyr’s portfolio of customized coaching solutions help employers reduce healthcare costs by identifying and addressing employee mental health issues before they require more expensive, long term care. For more information on how Espyr can help your organization, call Espyr at 888-570-3479 or click here.

When A Mask Is Just Not Enough

As COVID-19 continues to spread and availability of a safe and effective vaccine is still in question, we need to accept that this “new normal” is here to stay for the foreseeable future.  For those who have had COVID-19 or get it in the future, we still have much to learn about lingering and long term health effects.  Everyone, whether you’ve had the virus or not, is susceptible to the effects of COVID-19 on mental health – both short term and long term.

The Effects of COVID-19 on Mental Health Vary

The CDC reported recently on how fear and anxiety associated with a pandemic can be stressful, and in some cases, overwhelming in adults and children.   Social distancing, reduced social interactions and even working from home can make people feel isolated and lonely, increasing stress and anxiety.  Pandemic stress can cause:

  • Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones, your financial situation or job.
  • Changes in sleep or eating patterns.
  • Difficulty sleeping or concentrating.
  • Worsening of chronic health problems.
  • Worsening of mental health conditions.
  • Increased use of tobacco, and/or alcohol and other substances.

What’s more, there may be longer term, more serious mental health effects from COVID-19 as well.  A recent study with COVID patients from Wuhan, China as reported in Psychological Medicine explored the question of whether surviving a life-threatening illness such as COVID-19 put people at a greater risk for acute stress reactions and longer term for PTSD. Early research from the Wuhan study indicates it may and is consistent with earlier findings about the SARS pandemic.

Everyone Reacts Differently to Stress

The CDC report points out that everyone responds to this stress in different ways.  How you respond to stress during the COVID-19 pandemic can depend on your background, your social support from family or friends, your financial situation, your health and emotional background, the community you live in, and many other factors. People who may respond more strongly to the stress of a crisis include:

  • People who are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 (for example, older people, and people of any age with certain underlying medical conditions.
  • Children and teens.
  • People caring for family members or loved ones.
  • Frontline workers such as health care providers and first responders,
  • Essential workers who work in the food industry.
  • People who have existing mental health conditions.
  • People who use substances or have a substance use disorder.
  • People who have lost their jobs, had their work hours reduced, or had other major changes to their employment.
  • People who have disabilities or developmental delay.
  • People who are socially isolated from others, including people who live alone, and people in rural or frontier areas.
  • Racial and ethnic minority groups.  See our blog post on Discrimination and Health
  • Those who do not have access to information in their primary language.
  • People experiencing homelessness.
  • People who live in congregate (group) settings.

Healthy ways to cope with stress

Here’s the CDC’s advice on how to cope with pandemic induced stress.

  • Know what to do if you are sick and are concerned about COVID-19. Contact a health professional before you start any self-treatment for COVID-19.
  • Know where and how to get treatment and other support services and resources, including counseling or therapy (in person or through telehealth services).  To this point we would add, contact your company’s EAP or Human Resources department.
  • Take care of your emotional health. Taking care of your emotional health will help you think clearly and react to the urgent needs to protect yourself and your family.
  • Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including those on social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting.
  • Take care of your body.
    • Take deep breaths, stretch or  meditate
    • Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals
    • Exercise regularly
    • Get plenty of sleep
    • Avoid excessive alcohol and drug use
  • Make time to unwind. Try to do some other activities you enjoy.
  • Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.
  • Connect with your community- or faith-based organizations. While social distancing measures are in place, consider connecting online, through social media, or by phone or mail.

About Espyr

For over 30 years Espyr, has provided innovative mental health solutions to organizations operating  under some of the most challenging conditions. Espyr’s portfolio of customized coaching solutions help employers reduce healthcare costs by identifying and engaging at-risk employees and addressing their mental health issues before they develop into more expensive, long-term healthcare situations. For more information on how Espyr can help your organization, call Espyr at 888-570-3479 or click here.

Telehealth – A New Normal We’re Glad To Have

Americans are making many lifestyle adjustments during the COVID-19 emergency: working from home, restricted travel, wearing masks when in public and the increased use of telehealth or virtual care services to name a few.  At least one of these adjustments – telehealth – may prove to be a new normal for the better, both in terms of convenience and quality of care.

Telehealth is not new and surveys show that use was increasing even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.  But the pandemic has led to a rapid escalation in use of virtual care.  That escalation may be driven by the concern for  prevention; patients are avoiding public places, especially doctor’s offices for fear of contagion.  On the other hand, doctors also want to limit the risks of COVID-19 contagion and are encouraging patients with pandemic symptoms to stay home.

However, crisis often leads to innovation, and in the case of telehealth providers and patients alike will find it to be a convenient and effective alternative.  It is the benefits of telehealth, rather than preventing pandemic contagion, that will drive future growth of telehealth.

The benefits of telehealth

A recent US National Library of Medicine article provided a noteworthy report on the benefits and issues with telehealth.  There are a number of obvious benefits of telehealth:

  • It’s an effective way to provide care at home, especially for people who can’t easily get to their provider’s office.
  • Patients can get care from a specialist who may not be close by or easily accessible.
  • Patients can get care after office hours and can more easily communicate with providers.
  • Communication and coordination between healthcare providers is enhanced.
  • Patients managing chronic health conditions such as diabetes can get more support, more conveniently.
  • There is a potential for lower healthcare costs, as virtual visits can be less expansive than in -person visits.

 Telehealth for mental health care

Telehealth is not just for physical healthcare; it also can be applied quite well to the care of mental health.  A recent article in healthIToutcomes.com by Ray Costantini made a strong case for why telehealth services are needed for mental healthcare.

To begin with, there is still a stigma associated with mental health.  Although society is becoming more understanding and accepting when it comes to mental health, even those ready to get help encounter discouraging roadblocks: a lack of timely appointments because of a shortage of doctors and/or clinicians, the high cost of care, the lack of insurance coverage for mental health services and the challenging emotional burden of acting on the symptoms of depression.

Tele-mental or virtual health services are a convenient alternative. Easily accessible and much less expensive than in-person visits, telephonic or online care enables patients to access the resources they need to get help and address their challenges.  Tele-mental or virtual services also allow people to get help for their mental health concerns from the privacy of their own home. That often makes taking action easier and has been shown to help them be more open and honest about what they’re experiencing, compared to a face-to-face with a provider.

The Role Of Tele-mental Health Services

Similar to the expansion of telehealth services for physical care, telephone or computer based offerings for mental healthcare are also expanding.  Benefits of virtual mental healthcare include:

  • Increasing Access to Care – Virtual care can be available 24X7, 365 days of the year. Patients don’t need to wait days or even weeks for a scheduled appointment any more. And they don’t have to miss work, since then get care any time they want.
  • Offering More Time and Attention – Because providers’ schedules are frequently overbooked, patients only get their attention for only a few minutes, and can feel rushed to digest all the information they’re presented or be too intimidated to ask questions because they’re worried about inconveniencing the doctor. Online platforms enable patients to proceed at their own pace, giving them a chance to review information without being embarrassed about taking the physician’s time to ensure they fully understand.
  • Saving Time and Money – Not only is virtual care more affordable, people don’t have to lose pay by having to take time off for in-person visits or travel a long way. It’s also better for employers, since unmanaged mental health takes a brutal toll through both absenteeism and presenteeism.
  • Insurance Coverage – More payers are now reimbursing providers for virtual care. For example, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) said late last year that it is expanding opportunities to cover mental health treatments under Medicaid and encouraging states to improve community-based mental health services.
  • Reducing Stigma and Emotional barriers – Patients can seek care in the privacy of their own home without informing employers or family members. The comfortable environment often empowers them to share more information that can lead to a better diagnosis and faster time to treatment. It also enables them to become more engaged in their own care, seeking providers and solutions that best meet their individual needs.

Since the onset of the pandemic, at Espyr we’ve seen a dramatic increase in utilization of  tele-mental health services.  We’ve recently launched TalkNow®, where clients can reach a licensed mental health professional immediately without waiting or the need for an appointment. TalkNow has proven to be especially helpful for clients suffering from stress and anxiety issues related to COVID-19, but it can provide valuable support for a wide range of mental well-being issues.

While TalkNow provides immediate and convenient support, often resolving client’s concerns in one phone call, we also provide tele-mental health services for more complex mental health issues that require multiple sessions with a qualified mental health clinician.

The future for telehealth

We expect to see continued expansion in telehealth services.  Furthermore, as depression, anxiety and other mental health issues impact an increasingly large segment of the population, we expect a growing role for tele-mental health services as an effective and convenient form of treatment and support.

About Espyr

Espyr has been helping people – employees, students, members –  achieve and maintain good health so they can perform at their best for over 30 years.  Clients in the most challenging occupations rely on Espyr’s industry leading coaching, counseling and mental health advocacy  programs  to maintain employee health and well-being.  For more information contact Jeffrey Joo at 888-570-3479 or jjoo@espyr.com.

Espyr® Launches iResolveSM To Support Mental Health During COVID-19 Pandemic

ATLANTA, April 2, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — In response to the rapid escalation in COVID-19 related mental health issues, Espyr, an industry leader in mental health solutions, will begin offering its highly effective iResolve tele-mental health solution to help employers provide immediate support for employee mental health issues. iResolve was previously only offered to Espyr clients as part of a comprehensive Espyr EAP program.

People in all walks of life – from first responders, healthcare workers and other essential businesses to those enduring quarantine induced social isolation – are suffering a mental health drain as a result of COVID-19.  Fear of catching the virus, spreading it to friends and family, anxiety over the prospect of job losses or furloughs and concerns over evaporating retirement accounts are all contributing to unhealthy levels of stress, depression and even suicidal thoughts.

The explosion in the incidence of mental health issues unleashed by COVID-19 has overwhelmed some mental health providers, while many others lack the capability of providing the immediate counseling that iResolve offers.

iResolve is different than traditional counseling

Unlike traditional counseling, which requires members to wait for an appointment and travel to a counselor’s office multiple times, iResolve provides users with immediate telephonic access to clinicians who can help address their issues now, in one call. No appointment, no waiting.

Users of iResolve are more likely to say they would recommend the service to a friend or colleague than traditional in-office counseling sessions.  iResolve’s Net Promoter Score of 61 far exceeds the healthcare benchmark of 48, reflecting user satisfaction in iResolve.

“The longer the pandemic lasts, the more pronounced the effect will be on mental health, and for employers, the greater the impact on productivity, morale and absenteeism.  This is not just a viral pandemic, it’s a mental health pandemic as well,” stated Espyr CEO, Rick Taweel.  “With iResolve employers now have a proven, immediate and low cost way to support their employee’s mental health needs.”

About Espyr

Espyr has been helping employees achieve and maintain good health – so they can perform their best – for 30 years.  Clients in the most challenging occupations rely on Espyr’s industry leading Behavioral Health Coaching and Assistance Programs to maintain employee health and well being.  For more information contact Jeffrey Joo at 888-570-3479 or jjoo@espyr.com.