If there’s one tribe of humans that has braved the pandemic head-on for the sake of everyone else, it’s the medical frontline workers. No amount of applause can make up for the kind of struggle they’ve seen over the past year. But while everyone heard or read about the heroic efforts of doctors, nurses, and hospital staff, only a few paid attention to the massive role mental health professionals played in keeping humanity sane.
It can’t be denied that the deadly virus of 2019 caused numerous deaths, travel bans, and global lockdowns. But what’s also true is that it increased mental health issues manifold across the globe. People fell prey to depression, anxiety, and extreme fear over the past year, and this led to a swarm of cases and new challenges at mental health professionals’ doorsteps.
Increase in cases and waiting lists
In June 2020, an insightful survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed that about 40% of American adults struggled with substance abuse or mental health issues amid the pandemic. As a result, they took more trips to mental health providers. The American Psychological Association (APA) also released data showing similar trends alongside the statement that one was seeing more patients than regular in every three psychologists.
Many psychologists also confirmed that the surge in cases was coupled with a drop in cancellations and no-shows. Due to this influx, their waiting lists extended rapidly. Therapists who usually had two to three months of waiting list now had to hand out appointments seven to eight months in the future to see new patients. They also had to conduct sessions at odd hours due to jam-packed schedules.
Difficulties with virtual therapy
Like schools and offices, therapy also moved online. Though it helped mental health providers stay connected with their patients, it also caused several issues. Numerous mental health professionals, as well as patients, had a tough time adapting to video chat platforms and their security features. Several therapists said that they had to bear with patient issues apart from facing difficulties operating new technology. A lot of patients didn't have stable internet connections or appropriate devices, which hindered therapy further.
Stress and burnout
Due to the hike in cases and packed schedules, mental health providers went through a stressful time trying to maintain their work-life balance. Many complained that they couldn't take out time for themselves or their loved ones and were constantly exhausted. Many specialists said they feared this load would affect their service and their connection with patients.
Things could get grim if the situation persists
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services projected a shortage in mental health providers by 2025. It stated that if the present conditions don't improve, there could be an exodus of mental healthcare professionals. What would things get to if this happens? How would people cope with depression, anxiety, trauma, and other mental health issues? Guess none of us except time can answer these questions.