COVID-19 is already testing public health systems in countries around the world. If the virus spreads further in the U.S., as appears likely based on recent reports, it will put severe stress on our health care system. This stress will be exacerbated—and could become unmanageable—if federal, state, and local governments fail to acknowledge inherent cognitive biases, which can turn reasonable fear into panic and hysteria. If such panic takes hold, our public health systems could be quickly overwhelmed, thus
undermining critically important response efforts to COVID-19.
AMHCA has urged the federal government to take steps to address the mental health consequences of COVID-19 during the current crisis and beyond. We know during the SARS epidemic that many people expressed helplessness and their mental health had severely or moderately deteriorated because of the epidemic – and demonstrated posttraumatic stress symptoms. Similar effects should be anticipated in the U.S. if COVID-19 begins to significantly spread.
Tele-mental health and online mental health services and resources will be particularly critical given the possibility that significant populations may be quarantined or otherwise isolated in ways that could interrupt the availability of in-person services. Special attention should also be paid to older populations, those with development disabilities, and any other group with limited access to resources or who may be more likely to experience post-traumatic stress symptoms due to COVID-19.
We have expressed to federal officials to consider the needs of those with existing mental health conditions who may have heightened psychological distress over COVID-19. Patients with severe psychological distress that harms their health and well-being should receive the services they need.
Finally, we have expressed to Congress that all licensed mental health care providers should be recognized under the Medicare program to anticipate the needs of older adults and those with behavioral health conditions who are extremely vulnerable during an epidemic like the coronavirus. We need a strong mental health workforce for the elderly at all times.
Clinical Mental Health Counselors are uniquely positioned to help address the behavioral health-related dimensions of health care crises. You can help clients find constructive ways to manage their anxiety, especially if these worries are adversely impacting work performance, relationships, and daily routines.
AMHCA recognizes the importance of communicating effectively on efforts to treat and prevent the novel coronavirus. For the best public health resources, we encourage you to visit these sites:
AMHCA Letter to The White House and the Department of Health and Human Services
World Health Organization - Mental Health Considerations during COVID-19 Outbreak
Steps to Take to Protect Yourself and Your Family
Steps to Prevent Illness
What to Do When Sick
Older People and People with Chronic Diseases at Higher Risk
Getting Your Workplace Ready for Covid-19
Mental Health and Coping during Covid-19
Parent/Caregiver Guide to Helping Families Cope with the Coronavirus (Covid-19)
What Coronavirus Fears are Doing to People with Anxiety Disorders