It is no new revelation that mental health needs have spiked during the past few months. Many grappled with the isolating effects of having to stay home without the frequent interaction with family and friends. According to a sample survey taken by Statistics Canada, 52% of Canadians who participated reported that their mental health was somewhat or much worse since the start of the Pandemic (Canadians Mental Health, 2020).
Telemedicine has been more widely adopted since January by health care professionals alike to address the needs of patients with a safe and socially-distant solution. But as this type of remote care provides so many benefits to patients and providers, the use of virtual care isn’t likely to peter out when the health crisis is under control.
In regards to mental health, the benefits of telemedicine are immense. Patients have access to a therapist from anywhere – meaning the range of support may be greater than a traditional in-person only model of health care. For some living in remote locations or for those who can’t access in-person support this makes a huge difference. There are several social or economic factors that may affect how people access these types of services. Providing a secure, convenient, and cost effective way to attain mental health support boasts many benefits.
This is especially the case with young adults and adolescents. There may be several factors that prevent someone in this demographic from accessing care. According to one article, “they may be embarrassed to tell their parents or guardian if it means leaving school or missing class. Other students may not have a ride to and from the mental healthcare provider’s office. Low-income students may have trouble missing school if it means missing out on free or reduced-cost meals, including breakfast and lunch”(How Telehealth can Offer, n.d.).
Young adults also tend to be more well-versed in technology, and may look for opportunities to connect digitally as this is what they are more comfortable with. As emphasized in one article, a recent Accenture survey stated that over half of participants expected providers to be able to communicate digitally (Van Wagenen, J., 2019). In this sense, when mental health services are offered digitally, patients may be more likely to reach out and ask for support where they otherwise may not have.
In some cases, seniors already face greater risk of poor mental health due to factors such as decreased mobility, shrinking social circles, or living alone. Many of us with grandparents or elderly family members have seen the impact that further social isolation can have on this demographic during a pandemic. Providing an outlet for seniors to access care not just for physical health conditions but mental health support as well can be hugely beneficial.
Though seniors and young adults are single examples of demographics that will benefit from virtual mental health support, no person is immune to the impacts that worry, stress, loneliness and anxiety can have on our mental health. Everyone can benefit from prioritizing their mental health, and the more we normalize seeking help – whether virtually or in person – the greater the likelihood that we reduce the stigma related to mental health.
It all comes down to patient care and what will provide the best health outcomes. If virtual health services can encourage people to access the care they need on a more frequent basis, help cope with anxiety and stress, and improve overall health why wouldn’t telehealth be a permanent fixture in health management?
‘How Telehealth Can Offer Comprehensive Health Solutions to Younger Generations’.(n.d.). In Touch Health. Accessed August 18, 2020. Retrieved From: https://intouchhealth.com/how-telehealth-can-help-younger-generations-and-students/
Van Wagenen, J. (2019) What Younger Generations Demand From IT. Health Tech Magazine. Accessed August 18, 2020. Retrieved from: https://healthtechmagazine.net/article/2019/03/what-younger-generations-demand-health-it
‘Canadians Mental Health During the Covid Pandemic’ (2020).Statistics Canada, ‘The Daily’. Accessed August 18, 2020. Retrieved From: https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/200527/dq200527b-eng.htm