One symptom of the COVID-19 pandemic is a heightened sense of anxiety for all of us; this is something that our country has not experienced before. Everyone is grappling with a powerful mixture of daily stress and worry; whether we fear contracting the virus, losing a job, balancing working from home and taking care of the children, or the uncertainty about the future of our country.
The American Psychiatric Association released a poll recently, and 36% of Americans felt that the pandemic and its social and economic backlash are having a significant effect on their mental health. Unfortunately, as the crisis continues, this sad statistic will only continue to grow.
As hard as this is for the average American, it’s even harder for anyone who already has a mental health condition. As they shelter-in-place, those with mental and behavioral difficulties find themselves cut off from their social services and support networks. As a result, loneliness and isolation pose a threat to every age group but especially to seniors who are most at-risk for contracting the coronavirus. Studies have shown, isolation and loneliness are associated with death rates equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
In this critical time of need, it’s vital that no one feels alone. Livongo has formed a partnership with Kaiser Permanente to offer the myStrength mental health app free to Kaiser members.
Following a yearlong evaluation, both Kaiser Permanente members and mental health professionals chose Livongo’s myStrength; that choice was based on several factors, including clinical effectiveness, a high-quality experience, and interactive programming. Kaiser’s selection is just one validation of myStrength’s quality, as well as the importance of personalized support of their behavioral and mental health needs.
Throughout the COVID-19 crisis and beyond, Kaiser members will have around the clock access via their smartphone, tablet or computer to myStrength’s digital behavioral health tools; these include COVID-19-specific modules to help manage stress. Other modules include tips for parenting during these unprecedented times, managing social isolation, and other helpful information to support their overall emotional well-being and mental health.
More than ever, digital self-care apps such as Livongo’s myStrength are proving they can provide access to timely behavioral health guidance. This is an invaluable tool for anyone who needs help navigating life’s challenges.
Even before the pandemic, the demand for behavioral and mental health services was quickly exceeding the availability of licensed mental health professionals. The fact is, 55% of counties in the US don’t even have a single behavioral health specialist. Moreover, 60% of Americans who require behavioral and mental health support can’t access it. Fortunately, apps such as Livongo’s myStrength can help close this gap. Evidence-based self-care solutions are readily available to millions of people who might otherwise be left without clinically proven support and guidance.
In our over-burdened mental health system, digital solutions are a powerful alternative to traditional person-to-person care. Mental health specialists are in short supply and furthermore, many people are reluctant to see a specialist, due to the stigma. Unfortunately, primary care physicians take on much of this care, and account for 60% of every mental health diagnosis.
Unfortunately, primary care physicians are often unwilling, or ill-equipped, to fill this role. This could be due to a lack of training, short visits, and inadequate insurance reimbursement.
Livongo’s myStrength can easily supplement the care an overworked physician can reasonably deliver. Rather than simply sending a patient home with a prescription for a psychiatric drug, physicians can now offer the myStrength app. It’s a powerful, structured self-help program for a wide array of conditions, from depression, addiction, anxiety, and stress.
Even when a mental health professional is available, myStrength can make patient care more efficient and meaningful, by providing patients with a convenient tool between sessions. Study data shows that continuity and frequency of treatment directly correlate with better outcomes. With myStrength, mental health providers can give their patients homework between sessions, with in-app reminders. This helps patients remain on track, making fast progress on their self-care goals.
Unfortunately, the worst days of the coronavirus crisis, as well as its effects on mental and behavioral health, still lie ahead of us. There will certainly be increasing depression, anxiety, addiction, and other mental health conditions. At-risk individuals are coping with widespread job loss, grief and the existential trauma of feeling vulnerable. Sadly, this will place a huge demand on our country’s already overburdened behavioral health system.
The good news is, as, with the partnership with Kaiser Permanente, innovative tools such as Livongo’s myStrength can bridge that gap as well as modulate our response. In this way, evidence-based, digital self-help will prove to be an indispensable tool in how we can support mental health and emotional well-being.