While it’s true that COVID-19 has impacted our lives on countless fronts, one of the greatest challenges may be to provide medical care to your patients in particular ongoing mental health support.
Since COVID-19 precautions were implemented, some patients have been unable to visit a clinic for the ongoing, specialized care they need to manage mental health conditions, which may have been worsened by the pandemic.
“We already had a mental health crisis in this country,” says Dr. Diane McIntosh, Chief Neuroscience Officer at TELUS. “The pandemic has exacerbated that problem, as a result of what I call the ‘COVID-19 trifecta: worry about our own health, the health of our loved-ones and our community; worry about finances, and the impact of isolation.”
In addition to exacerbating existing mental health conditions, evidence is emerging that COVID-19 has caused a spike in new ones. A Statistics Canada study released this May found that almost one quarter (24%) of Canadians reported fair or poor mental health — compared to 8% of Canadians who reported fair or poor mental health in 2018.
Despite those sobering statistics, there are several applications and other online mental health resources that serve as valuable tools to help patients adapt to life at home.
Leaning on mental health apps and tools.
During these uncertain times, Canadians have sought new ways to take care of themselves, both physically and mentally. Many have turned to applications and other innovative online tools for support.
While there is no “one-size fits all” solution when it comes to mental health — adults, children, doctors, first responders, teachers, and students all have unique needs — there are a variety of apps for people to choose from. Here are a few apps that might be helpful as patients and physicians continue to adapt to the new health landscape:
Wellness Together Canada*: To help support people living with a mental illness or those concerned about their mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government of Canada has designed a web portal and app that offers a range of resources, including self-assessments and guided courses. It also gives Canadians the opportunity to confidentially connect with trained volunteers and mental health professionals, by phone and chat.
Headspace* and Calm*: These two apps teach mindfulness and meditation, two popular and scientifically-supported approaches to enhance wellbeing. According to Headspace’s chief science officer, Megan Jones Bell, the app has seen a 19-fold increase in the downloads of stress-relieving meditations since the start of the pandemic. Headspace and Calm can also help users learn skills that can help them to manage anxiety and improve sleep.
MindShift™ CBT*: Created by Anxiety Canada, this app offers scientifically-proven strategies, based on cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), and includes relaxation and mindfulness techniques, supports the development of more healthy ways of thinking, and supports a proactive approach to managing anxiety.
Finding a solution for every need.
With so many applications to choose from, where do you and your patients start? By reading reviews and testing out a few different ones yourself, you’ll be better able to help your patient find the app that best fits their health needs and lifestyle. There are many great apps that are free to use.
Dr. Michel Hébert, Medical Director at TELUS Health, agrees that using a combination of solutions can help. “I’ve recommended everybody try online yoga classes and learn how to breathe, how to calm themselves, how to live in the moment, how to exercise, and how to eat healthy,” he says. “Those are the pillars that we’ve decided to recommend as a first step.”
Supporting mental health patients with technology.
The COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to heightened stress and, for some, the new onset or an exacerbation of a mental illness. Making matters worse, physical distancing measures have made it much more difficult for people with mental health concerns to access the care they need.
Due to those barriers, more people have begun to harness the power of technology — turning to apps, digital tools, and other online resources to access the care they need. While it will take some time to understand the extent of the psychological toll resulting from this health crisis, the solutions that are being implemented today will continue to help Canadians long after the pandemic.
*TELUS has partnered with Calm, the mental fitness app, to bring a selection of their mindfulness and meditation videos to the TELUS Healthy Living Network® for Optik or Pik TV® customers in Alberta and B.C.