Letter to the Editor | Public underappreciates mental health specialists during pandemic

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By Caitlyn Schneeman

During this unprecedented time, most of us are nervously studying and working from home to limit social contact, and many states have issued orders that mandate all non-essential workers to stay home. We have all seen the appreciation posts circulating social media that thank the doctors, nurses, grocery store employees, truck drivers, police officers and other essential workers for their sacrifice so that the rest of us can be healthy, fed and safe.

One group of workers has been rarely mentioned: mental health professionals.

While the country slows down and more people are social distancing, the mental health problems people across the country are dealing with will not stop. Substance abuse treatment centers and psychiatric units cannot ask their patients to leave. Social workers and psychologists cannot cut ties with their clients and ask them to return after the pandemic is over. With more people feeling anxious about the current situation and isolated because of social distancing, more people need mental health services now than ever.

As with other industries, mental health professionals are innovating and finding ways to perform their roles with as little social contact as possible. Places like Rosecrance are doing assessments via video and telephone and are shifting in-person counseling to tele-groups, phone calls and live-streaming video. It is no surprise that online counseling services, like BetterHelp and Talkspace, are reporting spikes in membership in the past few weeks. Even the Counseling Center on campus will be switching to a phone triage system and will soon launch online counseling capabilities.

It is important that everyone, whether you are social distancing or going to work every day, takes time to focus on their mental health. This could involve cutting back on social media, doing an exercise video online or calling a friend to chat. With so many advances in telehealth, you can find free and paid services that allow you to talk to a mental health professional almost instantly. Whatever your current situation is, remember to thank the mental health professionals that you know because they truly are essential workers during these uncertain times.

Caitlyn is a graduate student in Social Work.