Covid-19 and Mental Healthcare: The Long Game

As a community, we have all endured and experienced The COVID-19 Pandemic Era in different ways, but for all of us, it has been a mix of challenges, loss, insights, opportunities, and growth. As unpredictable as the last 18 months have been, sociological studies tell us that, when tragedy or crisis hits a community, we actually work through it in several distinct phases. The first phase is the Pre-Crisis Phase when there are looming hints of threat and potential danger and then the crisis hits the community and has an instant impact. The second phase, the Heroic Phase, is the collective response that happens to a group going through a crisis. This phase is characterized by the want to band together, fight the good fight, and a drive to protect and defend. This leads to phase 3, the Honeymoon Phase, where there is a sense of empowerment, opportunity, hope, and connection. However, if the threat or danger returns and hits the community multiple times in a row this can lead to the Disillusionment Phase. In this phase, individuals lose a sense of the collective impact and increased hopelessness and helplessness replaces the energy of the hero. The Disillusionment Phase is where we currently are buoying and struggling to find a new place to ground. (WA State Mental Health Authority)

Humans do not like to buoy in a place of uncertainty and threat. We will strive to find some semblance of grounding or strength. This can appear in adaptive ways like helping others, working harder, and building stronger relationships. It can also appear in maladaptive ways like addiction, isolation, anger, shame, and blame. When someone reaches out for help from a therapist, they usually have come to understand that some of their behaviors are maladaptive. Given the pandemic more people are struggling with maladaptive behaviors than years prior. Reports show that there are higher percentages of people struggling with mental health disorders and conditions in 2020 than 2019. Review the statistics below:

  • From January to September 2020, 315,220 people took the anxiety screen, a 93 percent increase over the 2019 total number of anxiety screens. 534,784 people took the depression screen, a 62 percent increase over the 2019 total number of depression screens.

  • In September 2020, the rate of moderate to severe anxiety and depression peaked, with over 8 in 10 people who took an anxiety and/or depression screen consistently scoring with moderate to severe symptoms since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020.

  • More people are reporting frequent thoughts of suicide and self-harm than have ever been recorded in the MHA Screening program since its launch in 2014.

Information sourced from Mental Health America to access more information click the link here: The State of Mental Health in America | Mental Health America (

Due to the rise in stress more people are seeking mental health treatment. However, access to care is not able to keep up with the demand. So many clinicians in private practice and behavioral health organizations have waitlists or have to close their practice to new clients. This means that clinicians are also facing more demand and we are a caring profession that feels obligated to respond. This is a catch 22. We want to respond and need to be mindful of the timeline in front of us. We are in the Disillusionment phase and the waves will continue to crash upon us and people will continue to need our help.

That is why if we are going to face this pandemic and remain resilient, it will require us as clinicians to see this as a long game. We will see the impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic for many years. The goal is to stay in our profession, continue to be able to take patients, and be able to serve a spectrum of acuity. In order to do this we need support from other clinicians, supervision and training from the experts, and to lean on each other as a collective. Our skill set, knowledge, and ability are instrumental in the current phase of this community crisis. Now is the time that clinicians need to find collectives, places and people that will support, encourage, train, and invest in the knowledge, skill set, and impact that we can make on our clients and communities. Please join me at the Clinician Development Collective where together we invest in professional growth, knowledge, and impact.

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