In the wake of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) causing massive disruptions to people’s lives around the world, anxiety and depression are becoming widespread as the death toll mounts. Healthy civilians must make drastic adjustments to their lifestyles in an effort to “flatten the curve” and halt the disease from spreading until a vaccine has been proven safe and effective. Epidemiologists believe that harsh social distancing measures, business closures, and other society-wide efforts will need to stay in effect for about 18 months, if not longer.
Mental health resources are becoming crucial at this time. People are overcome with grief, shock, anger, and depression over what they cannot control. Healthcare providers and other essential workers must keep going to work, and anxiety is becoming debilitating on both individual and collective levels. Individual therapists and mental health practices have made themselves available through telemedicine channels to help people cope, and Talkspace – a company that connects therapists to clients online via text, audio and video message, as well as live video – has stepped up its efforts to connect more people to licensed mental health professionals as they try to adapt to this perilous and traumatic new era.
People who don’t have health insurance often find themselves facing difficulties accessing mental healthcare. Even for those with insurance, seeking out mental health treatment can be costly and difficult. Subsequently, many people opt to make arrangements with therapists on their own or access therapy through text or video chat — these, however, are not HIPAA compliant — as are the similar, secure services that Talkspace offers.
Because there will be just as much strain on mental health professionals as there is on doctors, nurses, and hospital staff in the coming months, Talkspace has dedicated the following mental health resources to people dealing with anxiety over coronavirus, as well as those on the frontlines.
Social Media and Talkspace Content Resources for Managing Anxiety About Coronavirus
Talkspace has started free Facebook groups for people experiencing severe anxiety about coronavirus. You do not have to be a Talkspace user to join the group. The Facebook group is led by a licensed therapist, and anyone in the group can get tips and guidance on managing their anxiety, as well as additional mental health resources. It is a designated safe space to discuss anxiety, fear, grief, and hopelessness with licensed mental health professionals in this unprecedented and uncertain time.
Another key purpose of the group is to foster a sense of community because people are also having difficulties adapting to long-term isolation as a result of business closures, workplace changes or job loss, and bans on large gatherings in attempts to halt the virus’ spread. Currently, there are both public and private Facebook groups led by Talkspace therapists, and additional groups may be formed in the near future.
The company also has an Instagram channel dedicated to helping people cope with the societal changes necessitated by the COVID-19 outbreak. Similar to the Facebook groups, you do not need to be an existing Talkspace user to join. The company is aiming to put out new Instagram stories every day pertaining to specific topics, such as adapting to working from home and dealing with depression caused by isolation. Viewers are encouraged to ask questions, and a Talkspace licensed therapist will respond.
Talkspace is also building a resource hub with coronavirus-related articles, such as content about coping with the deleterious mental health effects of social distancing. The content is free to view and does not require a membership. Anyone who is experiencing anxiety or other mental health issues as a result of coronavirus containment procedures is welcome to view and share.
Additional Mental Health Resources for Members
The company is offering discounts to employers who’d like to offer support to their employees as they adjust to working at home and likely lacking time to themselves. For all other subscribers, telepsychiatry is now available through the platform for people who now cannot access a psychiatrist face to face due to nonessential business closures. This is direly important if you need prescriptions and do not have refills available.
Most notably, Talkspace is offering free therapy sessions to healthcare workers on the frontline of this crisis. As healthcare workers are being overwhelmed in an under-supplied and under-staffed disaster, the toll on their mental health has spurred Talkspace to commit to providing more than 1,000 hours per month of free mental health services to them.
There is also a 16-day program specially designed for stress and anxiety being experienced as a result of the coronavirus outbreaks. Unlike one-on-one therapy sessions and telepsychiatry, the coronavirus anxiety management program is free to all users. It is designed to help people cope with the massive changes taking place and manage stress at home among themselves and loved ones and help reduce and mitigate the physical health effects caused by long-term stress and anxiety. It is a therapist-led program that involves worksheets and various exercises to help people cope.
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In these frightening and uncertain times, Talkspace is setting an excellent example for how mental health professionals can go beyond one-on-one telemedicine and make smart use of social media, content, and other frameworks to help people cope with crises, regardless of their ability to access mental healthcare. In the new world that will emerge from the pandemic, hopefully, the example being set will encourage the improvement of access to therapy.
The community elements of the platform also cannot be overlooked, since people seek out the Talkspace community not only during times of enforced isolation but also when trying to find people with similar backgrounds and mental health issues because it makes them feel less alone. While social media groups may not be a 1:1 substitute for face-to-face group therapy, they can certainly be easier to find than local group therapy sessions at this time.