Telemedicine proves to be an asset, as mental health patient volume increases during pandemic

Help for mental health

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — COVID-19 brought telemedicine to the forefront. Since the pandemic, more people have taken advantage of the at-home option.

During quarantine, telehealth was used for 70% of appointments at Baptist Health. That number has dropped down since, in other departments, but not in mental health.

“Behavioral health has stayed very high,” Dr. Elizabeth Ransom, with Baptist Medical Center said. “About 90% of our visits are virtual.”

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Right now, 40% of adults are struggling with mental health or substance abuse, contemplating suicide because of COVID-19, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Baptist Health’s mental health patient volume has increased by 20% since the start of the pandemic.

Georgia mental health advocate, Kim Carter, said she can understand why.

“The pandemic has added stress for everyone,” Carter said. Two years ago, she lost her son to suicide. He was 27 years old. “My son Brandon, he was just a great person. Extraordinary. He was a straight-A student, above average intelligence. At age 17, he was diagnosed as schizoaffective. Sadly, we did lose him. He took his life November 22, 2018.”

Carter said as an advocate for more mental health resources, telemedicine could be helpful for those who struggle to even make it to an appointment in-person because of their illness.

“Just being able to get that visit in at your convenience-- when and where it’s needed-- I think it’s very very very important,” Carter said.

Telemedicine does come with some challenges, specifically for clients seeking therapy.

“Telehealth is not without its limitations and challenges,” Jeanine Hoff said. Hoff is a Clinician (MSW) and has been working in Peer Support for the last few years with the Where Is the Sunshine group.

“One of the major issues we hear about is Zoom Anxiety. Traditional in-person treatment does not require the individual to see or hear themselves onscreen,” Hoff said. “Having to be present on camera may lead the client to feel self-conscious. It also can present a challenge to those who are struggling with depression as seeing themselves onscreen may increase depression symptoms.”

She adds that a lot of what takes place in therapy is often physical too.

Understanding a client’s issue is not just about the discussion but the eye contact, vocal intonation, facial expressions, and body language," Hoff said. “Not being in the same space as a client limits what can be observed during the therapeutic process.”

To find the right therapy for you or a loved one, you can reach out to your hospital of choice. Baptist Health also has a 24-hour hotline and an appointment request line.

Baptist Health’s 24-Hour Crisis Line 904.202.7900

If you or someone you love is in crisis, seek help immediately at Baptist Health’s 24-hour crisis line, or call 911 for immediate assistance.

Request an Appointment 904.376.3800

Baptist Health’s patient coordinator can help you select a mental health professional with the expertise appropriate for your needs.