This pandemic is impacting our health in a number of different ways: people are getting sick with COVID-19, others have serious conditions that are going untreated due to the fear of going to hospitals for help, and we will begin to see the impact of putting off preventive visits that screen for cancer and other illnesses. In addition to physical impacts, we are also seeing an uptick of mental health conditions resulting from isolation, economic injury, loss and stress, which could result in a prolonged period of heightened depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, survivor’s guilt, substance abuse and physical abuse.
Mental illness is already extremely prevalent in the U.S., with one in five Americans experiencing a mental illness at some point in their lives. Unfortunately, only 43% of those adults receive treatment. In fact, the average delay between symptom onset and treatment is 11 years. At Forward, we recognize that mental health is equally important as physical health. Primary care is frequently the first line of defense when it comes to identifying signs of an illness, and we strive to play that role in helping our members track trends in behavior to take action before a more serious condition has time to develop.
Every Forward member has access to the Mental Health Assessment in their app. Through a short series of questions, we evaluate for feelings of depression and anxiety. We encourage members to take the assessment even when they’re feeling well, so that we have a baseline understanding of their health. Concerning results will prompt the Forward Care Team to reach out to connect in person or via the app. One in four Forward members have used the mental health feature to connect with their Care Team during this pandemic, and while there has been a noticeable increase in mental health symptoms, we’ve been able to proactively provide proper care, guidance and medications to our members.
Forward doctors compiled some common guidance they provide to members for improving their mental health. Here are their tips:
- Get moving: Exercise stimulates hormones including dopamine and serotonin that boost your mood and raise energy levels.
- Try meditation: Guided meditation can help you relax and focus on the present. Apps like Calm and Headspace have programs for beginners and experts alike.
- Stay rested: Sleep deprivation and mental illness are closely linked. Try getting into a sleep routine, where you get in bed at the same time every day and take specific steps to get a full eight hours of sleep.
- Write your worries: Sometimes anxiety can be caused by all the thoughts you are trying to keep track of in your head. Write down a list of your worries so you can stop thinking about them.
- Get help: There are a number of great resources if you are in need. National Help Hotline is available 24/7, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America has a great blog repository, and your primary care doctor should be your first step in getting care.
Managing your mental health during the pandemic is just as important as protecting your physical health. Forward’s COVID-19 Care Program includes mental health monitoring as well as stress management clinics to help protect yourself and your family from the negative health effects of anxiety and stress. From the app, you can read up-to-date information and guidance from the nation’s health leaders as well as access the COVID vaccine or seek treatment for COVID-19. If you’re interested in learning more about how Forward can provide personalized, preventive care to you, visit our website.