Understanding the full impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our mental health may take time but one thing is clear: More people are feeling the effects and reaching out for help.
During the pandemic, 4 in 10 U.S. adults reported feeling anxious or depressed and a vast majority (85%) said mental health issues were disrupting their daily life.1 The result is a big jump in requests for mental health treatment.
“More of our members are asking questions about what kind of support is available,” said Stacie Grassmuck, director of behavioral health product and innovation at UnitedHealthcare Employer & Individual. “The good news is we have many resources. Our job is to help guide members to the right care at the right time and using the right tools.”
Depending on your health plan, you may have access to therapy or psychiatric treatment, which may include medication or facility-based treatment. Other forms of support may include online education, self-help apps or virtual coaching.
“The pandemic created momentum around virtual care, including virtual therapy, that is not slowing down,” Stacie said. “We are seeing more innovative digital tools coming online — helping to meet people’s mental health needs and improve access to care.”
Here are five resources that may be available to you:
- Self-help tools: Apps can be a convenient way to find evidence-based solutions, ranging from guided breathing and meditation techniques to a connection with a mental health expert. For example, Sanvello is an emotional-support app that features daily mood tracking, coping tools and other help for managing symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression.
- Behavioral coaching: Virtual health and wellness coaching may help you with lifestyle changes aimed at improving mental health. For example, eligible UnitedHealthcare members have access to virtual behavioral coaching, powered by AbleTo®. The cognitive behavioral therapy-based solution is an eight-week, self-paced digital program that uses structured tools, activities and support from a coach — who can help remove barriers and celebrate progress. A similar program that incorporates virtual therapy is designed for people who are simultaneously dealing with a medical diagnosis and a mental health issue.
- Virtual therapy: You may feel more at ease connecting with a mental health provider by video from the comfort of home, especially if you’re seeking help for the first time. In a recent survey, 6 in 10 people said they would consider this type of virtual care for mental health. For eligible UnitedHealthcare members, therapy through Talkspace and other online providers may be available for 24/7 access to a licensed therapist.
- In-person therapy: If you prefer in-person therapy, your health plan app or website may enable you to find an area mental health professional who meets your needs and is in-network. If you need support for help dealing with increased alcohol use, you may have access to resources or a helpline for recovery services, including access to a network provider.
- Assistance for complex cases: Health plans are creating more personalized support for special behavioral health situations. For example, for eligible caregivers of children with complicated mental health needs, the Optum Family Support Program offers a single point-person to help with phone-based case management. The care advocate supports not only care coordination and navigation for the child, but actively supports the behavioral health needs of other family members as well. Similar programs are offered for caregivers of adults who have complex mental health cases to make it easier to maneuver the system.
History has shown the mental health impact of disasters outlasts the physical impact, suggesting that today’s elevated mental health need will continue well beyond the COVID-19 pandemic itself. Seeking support now may help you get back to feeling like yourself sooner.
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of self-harm or suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-8255.
To understand your specific mental health support options, sign into your health plan account or call the number on your member ID card. For more information, visit uhc.com.
1 U.S. Census Bureau, Household Pulse Survey, 2020.