Giving Compass' Take:

• As more individuals continue to need support services, particularly in mental health, the strained health system is implementing creative means to help those who are struggling. 

• How can donors bolster mental health systems to expand and provide support? 

• Read more about the mental health risks during COVID-19. 

As the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic effects spread, concerns about mental health impacts continue to grow. For example, we worry for health and human services professionals whose duties involve higher risk for trauma exposure and post-traumatic stress.

Yet even in “normal” times—apart from this pandemic—a large proportion of those who need mental health or substance use treatment never get it. It is simply hard to find care in the United States—especially evidence-based treatment. Waiting lists are often months long, and in some regions people must travel hundreds of miles to reach the nearest psychiatrist. Mental health care also can be very expensive; many providers do not take insurance and require that patients pay out of pocket. In short, our mental health system is already strained and the number of people needing help is continuing to grow.

COVID-19 has forced fast changes to laws, allowing increased access to telemedicine for mental health, as one example. But most of this work still relies on traditional mental health providers: psychologists, psychiatrists and clinical social workers. Some communities, however, have been experimenting with new and innovative mental health approaches.

C2C is one example of mental health “task-sharing” or “task-shifting,” a model where some activities—screening, active/supportive listening, and other elements of mental health care—can be taken on by people outside the traditional mental health workforce. This then allows psychologists and psychiatrists to devote more of their time to specialized and complex tasks, such as diagnostic assessments, prescribing psychiatric medication, and therapies.

Read the full article about rising mental health crisis by Lynsay Ayer and Clare Stevens at RAND.