Telehealth can help with COVID-related anxiety and depression

Living in the shadow of COVID-19 for nearly the past year has caused quite a few changes in people’s day-to-day lives: think social distancing, constant handwashing and outdoor dining in the middle of winter.

COVID-19 has also brought something else along with it – depression and anxiety.

“We’re seeing an increase in depression, but even more so an increase in anxiety,” said Dan Thoma, senior manager of behavioral health for Moda Health. “The stress of the confinement, the stress of wondering how and when you’re going to be able to get a vaccine, the worry about your loved ones – those are really creating a lot of anxiety for people.”

For folks dealing with increased anxiety and depression due to the pandemic, it’s important to remember to tend to your mental health. And while in-person visits with therapists may have been curbed because of the pandemic, telemedicine has stepped in and allowed people to continue to get the mental health help they need.

“Normally, you’d get in your car or hop on the MAX and go to your therapist,” Thoma said. “The provider community really switched very rapidly and nimbly to providing those same services via telemedicine. It’s the same process, but you’re just doing it over your laptop or on your phone or tablet.”

In addition to telemedicine visits, providers are also able to offer services through helpful apps. Some provide simple daily affirmations and meditations, while others offer full-fledged treatment programs guided by licensed professionals.

So, do these alternative options work?

“There is a lot that we know and a bunch we don’t know, but the big picture is that telehealth is very effective for treating mental health conditions,” Thoma said. “There have been a number of studies in different settings and with different populations, and it’s almost universally been shown to be effective.”

Two other big attractions to going the telemedicine route? It’s easier to access for people who may be reluctant to seek in-person care, and it’s covered by most insurance plans.

“Absolutely it is covered,” Thoma said. ” The major carriers in Oregon have all really expanded coverage for telehealth during the pandemic.”

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