The negative impact on mental health comes as no surprise during the pandemic. Increasing stress and anxiety from health worries, financial difficulty, and social isolation has led to an increase in Americans reporting diminishing mental health.
With social distancing guidance in place throughout the nation, conventional therapy and counselling are harder to obtain. Therefore, the public is now turning to the internet for help during the crisis. It isn’t just those who are suffering who are reaching out, their loved ones are even searching terms such as ‘how to become a therapist’ in an attempt to provide the right support during these times.
RTT ran a study to gain an insight into the demand for mental health support during the pandemic and how the public is adapting to these times and using technology for support. The results were concluded from search terms in Google and app reviews in the months of January to September 2020 and compared with the same months in 2019.
Isolation is the leading cause of many mental health issues
When analysing why increasing numbers of individuals were searching for mental health support, social isolation and loneliness was an occurring theme. Studies have shown that loneliness can be as detrimental to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
A record number of Americans are now suffering from loneliness due to the pandemic and a lack of human interaction is leading to them suffering. Loneliness can impact us in various ways, from depression, anxiety and stress to poor sleep quality and even PTSD.
The public want to train themselves to help loved ones
Family and friends of those who need help with their mental health struggles appear to be trying to take matters into their own hands for a temporary measure. Search terms for training to become a therapist have surged and Google searches for terms such as ‘how do I become a therapist’ have gone up 10 times compared to 2019.
While becoming a therapist can take years of training, exams and experience, the public is trying to do whatever they can to help friends and family while traditional methods are not available. By looking for these terms, useful resources can be found to help individuals approach the matter carefully and considerately to help those suffering the best they can.
While this should not be seen as a ‘quick fix’ route, it can certainly help to steer people in the right direction and make every attempt to not diminish the mental health of those who are not coping even more.
Increasing numbers are turning to online methods
Google trends show that interest in the search term ‘online therapy’ has almost doubled since 2019 since the announcement of the world-wide emergency COVID-19 presents. While some therapists are offering virtual sessions via video call, there are also other technologies being utilised.
Well-being apps, such as Headspace, Calm and Better have grown in popularity and this has doubled since 2019. While these methods are not as tailored as traditional therapy and can’t offer help for all needs, they have been providing assistance to many.
Can apps replace therapy?
6,000 reviews were evaluated for apps such as Headspace, Calm and Better to gain an insight into how well they are working for the general public. Many users reported these apps were helping with their loss of normality, usual routines and centeredness.
For those with minor mental health symptoms, these apps can provide a vital lifeline to help with low levels of anxiety and stress, some even have the additional feature to help users improve their sleep quality which can impact their overall mental state.
However, professionals within the mental health world have advised that while these apps can help with some issues, such as stress related to the pandemic, they are not a replacement for therapy from trained experts.
Many therapists do agree that these apps are beneficial but should be used as a supplement alongside professional aid. These apps can provide short-term relief for some but should not be considered a long-term solution to the public’s problems.
‘Our work as psychologists is to help people look at their minds. There are so many mental health apps out there, but they have a short-term effect if people don’t look at their minds and their ingrained beliefs,’ says Yasmine Saad, PhD (psychiatrist).
When should you seek therapy?
If you or someone you know are experiencing mental health issues, no matter how small, the earlier professional help is sought, the better. We are all experiencing some form of negative impact from the pandemic but this does not mean we are all coping the same.
Those who are experiencing chronic loneliness, depression, anxiety, stress, feeling of hopelessness or any other negative mental health issues should seek a professional hand as soon as possible.
Tommy Williamson did his degree in psychology at the University of Edinburgh. He has an ongoing interest in mental health and well-being.
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