Don’t dismiss your feelings
Dealing with mental health issues during the pandemic
Life during the pandemic hasn’t been easy. It’s taken a toll on nearly every aspect of our daily lives, from work to school to gatherings with loved ones and friends. The list of things we may worry about seems never-ending: Keeping ourselves and our family members healthy as COVID-19 infection rates rise again. Helping kids deal with isolation and the effects of learning from home. Figuring out what to do about lost income or job insecurity.
If you’re like many people, paying attention to your mental health hasn’t been a top priority with everything else going on. But now more than ever, it’s time to take care of your mental health, for yourself and those you love.
Are you struggling?
Think about yourself for a few moments and about how you’re coping. Take stock of your feelings, moods, behaviors, even your social well-being.
These are all part of your mental health. Not only does your mental health affect how you feel every day, deal with stress and relate to those around you, it also can affect your physical health. Depression, for example, can increase the risk for heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
To make matters worse, people of color, already hard hit by COVID-19 infections and deaths, experienced more stress and mental health challenges in 2020, research suggests. Yet, a recent Anthem study found that black members had 7 percent fewer mental health visits than white members with similar backgrounds.
It’s important to advocate for yourself. You may want to think about getting professional support if you have some of these symptoms:
• Feeling down or sad
• Difficulty doing your daily tasks
• Excessive worry, fear, guilt or anger
• Using alcohol, cannabis, other drugs or cigarettes more than usual
• Major changes in eating or sleeping habits
• Thoughts of harming yourself or others
Where to start
Taking charge of your mental health can make you feel better, help you deal with all the COVID concerns you’re facing and help you stay healthy! Many people find that self-care activities, like exercise, meditation, taking breaks, connecting with others and doing something enjoyable every day, ease their stress and help them feel better.
Use your health insurance benefits
The good news is that these symptoms typically improve with talk therapy and medications. Both are services that your health plan likely covers.
Getting the care you need is easy. It’s like getting other health care services.
If you’re seeking mental health services for the first time, these tips can help:
• Start with your primary care provider (PCP). Talk with your PCP about how you’re feeling. Your doctor can let you know how your emotions may be impacting your physical health and can give you advice about next steps. For example, your doctor can prescribe medication to help you feel better. Your PCP can also refer you to a mental health professional, called a behavioral health (BH) provider, based on your needs. Some BH professionals can prescribe medication and provide therapy. Others can provide talk therapy but are unable to prescribe medication.
• Find a BH provider on your own. You can search your health plan’s provider directory for behavioral health providers. If you don’t have access to the directory, call the number on your member ID card and ask for help.
• Understand your benefits. Review your health plan documents or call the number on your ID card to learn about the services your plan covers. These services may include: medications, outpatient psychotherapy (talk therapy), inpatient care, various levels of substance use disorder treatment, and more. Your plan may cover telehealth services so you can speak to a therapist from the comfort of home at a time that works for your schedule.
• Take advantage of special programs your health plan offers. Your health plan may offer programs at no extra cost that can help you focus on yourself and making healthy choices. Tufts Health Direct, for example, offers two healthy lifestyle programs. With Omada, members get support from peers and professionals. With Good Measures, members work with a health coach. These programs not only enhance your physical health. A healthy diet and lifestyle may also help improve your mood and your mental health.
Feeling some stress is normal, especially during a pandemic. But support is available if you feel overwhelmed or feel like you need help. Your health plan is a resource that can help you feel your best physically and emotionally.
Tufts Health Plan is one of the few health plans in Massachusetts to offer coverage across the life span regardless of age or circumstance. This coverage includes Medicaid/subsidized, commercial and Medicare health plans. To learn more,