Declining mental health during COVID-19

There’s been an overall feeling of ‘blah’ or ‘meh’ lately. Have you felt it? Anecdotally, we have heard that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a general decrease in people’s emotional well-being and mental health. A new statewide poll conducted by The Colorado Health Foundation backs up these observations with statistics. Fifty-three percent of respondents said they have “experienced increased mental health strain, such as anxiety, loneliness or stress” in response to the coronavirus crisis.

The numbers mean that one in every two people have had mental health strain correlated to the pandemic. Mental health providers, however, are concerned that people are “suffering in silence.”

Locally, our mental health partners have reported a decline in outpatient therapy. In a recent Business Times article Michelle Hoy, executive vice president of Mind Springs Health, noted a 50 percent reduction in outpatient mental health therapy services started at Mind Springs: “Anecdotally we hear—and most of the data confirms— that most Americans are feeling anxious, stressed, overwhelmed and unwell emotionally, and yet we have fewer people starting treatment than usual.”

Loss of health insurance

COVID-19’s impacts on the economy could be a reason for the decline in mental health treatment. More often than not, loss of a job translates to the loss of health benefits, which often results in healthcare needs being put on the back burner – including mental health needs.

According to a Kaiser Health News (KHN) poll, “3 in 10 adults have had trouble paying household expenses, with 13% expressing difficulty paying for food and 11% paying medical bills. Nearly 1 in 4 adults said they or a family member in the next year will turn to Medicaid, the federal-state health insurance for low-income residents.” 

One respondent in the Colorado Health Foundation poll stated the most important issue facing Colorado right now is the interconnectedness of “coronavirus and employment. Most people have lost their jobs and single parents who are now at home with kids learning from home without employment benefits. It’s a problem.”

Local providers are ready

“It’s heartbreaking,” Felicia Romero, the crisis response operations manager at Mind Springs Health, said. “We have capacity at Mind Springs and we will not turn anyone away regardless of their ability to pay. In fact, we have a sliding scale fee and we will also help them get set up on Medicaid or Colorado’s health insurance exchange.”

Mind Springs has gone to great lengths to help Western Coloradans. During the height of the pandemic they negotiated a short-term deal with Verizon Wireless to provide cell phones with data plans to patients with the most immediate mental health needs, so telehealth visits could take place over Zoom. 

Felicia encourages anyone who is in need of care to come in. “Our offices are clean and safe, we will work with you on payment, your mental health comes first. Please do not suffer in silence.” 

If you are experiencing a mental health crisis you can call Colorado Crisis Services at 844.493.8255 or text TALK to 38255. Contact Mind Springs Health at 970.241.6023 if you would like to set up mental health counseling sessions either in person or virtually.