ST. LOUIS – COVID-19 has pushed Telehealth of all shapes and sizes to the forefront, including “telemental” care, which has proven to be a consistent and productive way for behavioral health providers to connect with individuals and group therapy virtually during the pandemic.
Patients have rapidly adopted telehealth locally as well. Amy Konsewicz, a behavioral health specialist with SSM Health Medical Group, says it’s not necessary to be in the same room with someone when you talk to them, and talk remains the primary point of maintaining the important personal connections for behavioral treatment.
While COVID-19 is not a mental health disorder, the stress of a pandemic, including social distancing and stay-at-home orders, have brought on stress and anxiety in general that people with existing mental health problems may feel more frequently, and those without diagnosed mental health problems, are calling to get help.
Amy says it feels like insurance companies and patients are all catching up quickly technology and embracing telebehavioral health. She says now other medical professionals are referring patients for consultation through telehealth. For example, a patient who has to be on bed rest following surgery can often benefit from a telehealth check-in from behavioral health.
And locally, calls are up. Konsewicz says at SSM Health DePaul Hospital outpatient program, “in the last month, we received 72 phone calls that were just an inquiry for outpatient services. And, across our programs for SSM Health, we admitted 13 new patients.”
When asked about how we can all do a self-check of our own stress or anxiety, Amy encourages, “Remind yourself that we do not always have the answers. But, one of the things you can do is talk to family members or close friends. They know you the best and they can help you identify if your behaviors are outside of your normal behaviors.”
She encourages us to start building habitual routines so that we can decrease some of the anxiety or sadness that comes with such big changes that are out of our control.
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The SSM Health Medical Minute airs Wednesdays on KPLR 11 at 7pm and FOX 2 News at 9pm.