The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on America’s behavioral health system has been overwhelming. As some experts predicted, we’re seeing an increased need for mental health services with many providers now struggling to keep up with the demand.
The onset of the problem was captured in our America’s Mental Health Pulse Survey in April 2020 as the pandemic took hold of the US. It found that 64 percent of Americans reported feeling anxious, yet only one in six (14%) of households accessed mental health care as a result of the pandemic. CVN President & CEO, Dr. Anthony Hassan spoke to this at the time in an article in Stars & Stripes, “If you look at any challenges in America — 9/11, the 2008 recession, hurricanes — people tend not to come right out to get care, but soon thereafter the system is flooded,” Hassan said. “We anticipate seeing a lot of this.” And seeing a lot of this, we are. A survey by the American Psychological Association (APA) conducted last fall, found that 29 percent of psychologists said they are seeing more patients overall since the start of the pandemic, with 30 percent reporting that they’re unable to meet the demand. While a recent New York Times article cited several instances wherein those seeking help have struggled to find timely care.
So, what are those in need of mental health services to do as they wait for appointments to become available? Skills-based group therapy, online interactive resources and apps may be a way of learning techniques to improve your well-being while awaiting treatment. Many of our clinics offer skills-based group therapy so please check with one near you. Additionally, here are a few free resources that anyone can access in support of their mental health & well-being:
Tools for Managing Stress & Worry – An interactive resource developed by CVN for military families, Tools for Managing Stress & Worry is a free, self-paced online course. It provides easy-to-use tools, strategies, and techniques that participants can access whenever and wherever they need to manage stress and worry.
Breathe2Relax – This app developed by the Defense Health Agency (DHA) helps users manage stress and anxiety with deep-breathing exercises. It can help users stabilize their moods and control their anger. The tool can also help users to “interrupt their body’s fight-or-flight instinct and activate its relaxation response.”
CBT-I Coach – Looking to improve your sleep habits? This app guides “users through the process of learning about sleep, developing positive sleep routines, and improving their sleep environments. It provides a structured program that teaches strategies proven to improve sleep and help alleviate symptoms of insomnia.” It was developed by VA’s National Center for PTSD, Stanford School of Medicine, and DoD’s National Center for Telehealth and Technology.
T2 Mood Tracker – This app developed by DHA “allows users to monitor and track their emotional health.” Developed as a tool for service members to record and review their behavior changes, particularly after combat deployments, it has now become popular with many civilian users around the world.” It allows users to record a range of emotions from anxiety to depression to post-traumatic stress and track progress in these areas.
CVN Presents – Launched in March 2020 in response to the pandemic, CVN Presents is a “virtual community room” in which we host a wide variety of content in support of visitor’s mental health & well being. Continuously updated with new resources it includes workshops, seminars, family events, children’s programming and more.
By Tracy A. Neal-Walden, Ph.D.
Chief Clinical Officer
Cohen Veterans Network