How IO Supports Mental Health Specialists to Better Support Their Clients.
When the pandemic first hit businesses, there was a mixed bag of emotions. Individuals cultivated more free time, parents became teachers, and plenty of sourdough bread was made. However, what was initially supposed to be two weeks "off" has manifested into a worldwide mental and physical health crisis. In a scientific brief released by the World Health Organization (WHO), during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, "anxiety and depression increased by a massive 25%"[i].
To further showcase the pandemic's impact on all age groups, especially working adults, there has been an uptick in a variation of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) regarding COVID-19 labeled "Post-COVID stress disorder." In an article written by the New York-Presbyterian, the cause of this new mental illness is due to COVID-19, an invisible force that is a prolonged threat[ii]. The pandemic has not only a lasting physical health impact but also long-term mental health issues. In August 2020, 26.3% of people reported starting or increasing the use of substances to cope with stress[iii].
With mental disorders exacerbated by pandemic life, the increase of psychiatric and therapy appointments has skyrocketed. Children, teens and adults are all coping with different issues. Anxiety and fear of getting sick; worries about caring for sick or elderly relatives; overcoming new social anxiety due to lack of social interaction; loss of jobs and wages; feeling isolated due to working remotely without the camaraderie, collaboration, guidance and support from colleagues, teammates, and friends; exhaustion from juggling working from home while taking care of young kids, homeschooling, and erratic child care; depression over missing significant life events – proms, graduations, weddings, birthdays; and marital issues due to the financial, parental, and emotional pressures.
As the frontline support staff to many therapy practices, we have seen the volume of their calls escalate and continue to hear the sheer desperation in callers' voices needing to meet with a therapist. The difficulty of booking an appointment with a therapist has increased drastically, with 68% of mental health workers reporting having a waitlist; referrals have doubled from 37% in 2020 to 62% in 2021[iv]. In a time where getting help with mental illness is challenging, we spoke with a few of the therapists Intelligent Office supports in our executive office suite to gather their insights and advice.
When chatting with IO member Dr. Angela Mackay, owner of Mackay Behavioral Health Services, we asked her what trends she had noticed throughout the pandemic. Dr. Mackay stated that there had been heightened anxiety due to a fear of germs, and social anxiety has worsened. She recommends using Psychology Today or Chamber of Commerce websites to find a mental health professional. She also noted not to veer away from telehealth appointments as they are still effective, providing both parties can see non-verbal cues and body language.
In our discussion with Donna Reid-Washington, CEO of Love First, PLLC, she gave phenomenal insights that she learned from the "Tenenbaum Human Capital Webinar" regarding taking care of your mental health. While there have been extensive posts and conversations regarding self-care, all of which are important, there is one essential tidbit that we want share: to increase positive self-talk. Positive self-talk is vital as it highlights self-care and mental health well-being through being kind to yourself. According to an article posted by the Mayo Health Clinic, positive self-talk has been proven to reduce stress, lower depression, and increase coping skills during times of difficulty[v].
To round out the discussion, we reached out to Veronica Morton, owner of Advanced Psychiatric Wellness Center, LLC. She stated, "Depression, anxiety, and suicide are at an all-time high with the current crisis in the world. Life as we know it changed with the start of COVID, and many are still struggling with the adjustment. Gun violence, economic issues, and political uprising are just a few more things affecting us all, and our mental health is suffering due to all this stress."
Ms. Morton offered some tips to help ease or decrease your mental health symptoms:
- Exercise produces endorphins which help to improve your mood; increasing your physical activity to at least 30 minutes every day can assist with improving your mood.
- Spend at least 30 minutes outside in the sunlight to increase your Vitamin D as low Vitamin D can cause fatigue.
- Make healthy choices with your diet, stay hydrated, and get sufficient rest. If you are not obtaining adequate rest, your depression and anxiety-related symptoms will continue to worsen.
- Not using your smartphone, tablet, or computer when in bed will allow you to relax before going to sleep. Using your tablet, smartphone, or computer in bed keeps your brain active and not ready to sleep. So, only get in bed when you are prepared to sleep.
- Limiting caffeine is a stimulant that can increase anxiety and insomnia. Thereby creating a cycle of interrupted sleep and increasing mood issues.
- Find a therapist to start treatment; talk therapy works wonders in improving mental health symptoms and helping clients to develop coping skills.
- Consider finding a psychiatric provider to discuss medications used to treat your symptoms and develop a treatment plan if medications are needed.
Since the pandemic rocked the normalcy of medicine, many appointments are made and held virtually rather than in the office. The American Psychiatric Association reported in 2021, 59% of patients, specifically young adults, preferred making exclusively virtual appointments and planned on continuing this method compared to in-person. With this shift to telehealth, many practitioners can work from their own homes and have found that their business needs have significantly changed in the past two years. While the need for an expensive, full time suite with onsite staff has become an unnecessary expense, now more than ever, mental health professionals need professional administrative support for their businesses. They do not have enough time in their busy day to do it all – answer their phones, handle insurance claims, billing, scheduling appointments and caring for their clients. With the rise in technology and telemedicine, more medical professionals are working remotely, however, it is important for them to protect their privacy (and security) by establishing a professional presence other than using their home address. Additionally, with their client demand increasing, they need to be able to focus on their specialty - providing therapy to their patients. This challenge has lead many practitioners to partner with virtual office companies like Intelligent Office.
Virtual or shared office suites enable therapists to secure a prominent, trusted and searchable address in a prominent, physical business location. They can rent private office spaces or meeting rooms by the hour whenever needed without the monthly overhead expense of a full-time suite. They can utilize on-demand, HIPAA certified Intelligent Assistants, who become an extension of their team, managing their phone calls and scheduling needs, with a staff who is uniquely trained to handle delicate situations, manage callers with sensitivity and bear the burden of their front and back-end office tasks. With these types of business solutions, busy professionals can focus on what they do best – listen, counsel and look after their client’s wellbeing while they outsource the daily tasks of their business!
We are interested in your thoughts! Let us know if you have any tips that have helped manage your stress during this difficult time.
If you or someone you know is struggling with a mental health issue and would like to seek professional help, below is a list of several mental health providers you can contact.
You can also reach out for help by calling or texting the Montgomery County hotline 301-738-2255 or Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988
In or Around the DC Metro Area:
- Advanced Psychiatric Wellness Center: https://www.advpsychwellness.com/
- Amethyst Counseling and Consulting: https://www.amethystcounselingandconsulting.com/
- Clinical and Forensic Associates: https://clinicalforensicassociates.com/
- Dana Durand Massage Therapists: https://www.danadurand.com/
- Healing Inspirations Counseling, LLC: https://www.healinginspiration...
- Keem Counseling LLC
- Elizabeth Nyang, LCPC: https://www.selfunderstanding....
- Everyday Counseling and Coaching Services, LLC: https://www.orlykatz.com/?fbcl...
- Lindsey Hoskins and Associates: https://lindseyhoskins.com/
- Love First, PLLC: http://www.empowermentinsights...
- Mackay Behavioral Health Services: https://www.mackaybehavioralhe...
- Massage Wellness LLC
- Naturopathic Living: http://www.naturopathicliving.com/
- Positive Insight Counseling and Wellness
- Pro-Health Solutions, Inc.
- Rebound and Thrive: https://reboundandthrive.com/
- Talkiatry: https://www.talkiatry.com/our-...
- Woctch Behavioral Health Care LLC
[i] World Health Organization. (2022, March 2). Covid-19 pandemic triggers 25% increase in prevalence of anxiety and depression worldwide. World Health Organization.
[ii] Moog, M. (2022, May 5). Understanding pandemic PTSD and how to recover your mental health. NewYork-Presbyterian.
[iii] Fielding, S. (2021, June 16). Our mental health won't just go back to normal when the pandemic is over. Verywell Mind.
[iv] American Psychological Association. (2021, October 19). Demand for mental health treatment continues to increase, say psychologists [Press release].
[v] Staff, M. C. (2022, February 3). How to stop negative self-talk. Mayo Clinic.