Social distancing has 'devastating' consequences for mental health patients, expert says

Mental health professionals are working to address the potential consequences of Americans' social distancing efforts, reports NBC News.

Extended time spent alone in isolation is crucial to prevent the spread of COVID-19 but is not ideal for individuals with depression or suicidal thoughts.  

"Isolation is so devastating to our own mood because we're left stuck with our own thoughts," Emily Roberts, a New York City-based psychotherapist, told NBC News. "If you're struggling with a mental health disease, if you are relying on therapy which requires you getting out of your house, it's going to be very hard to motivate yourself to get the help you need."

Providers must consider the lasting effects this disruption may have on mental healthcare in America, according to Lynn Bufka, PhD, associate executive director for research and policy for the American Psychological Association.

"What's going to be the implication for disruption? Not everyone is going to be able to continue to get the help they need. Clinicians are very much thinking right now about how to do that," she told NBC News.

Ms. Roberts said she's been sharing videos on her website about how to cope with anxiety during the pandemic. Clinicians can also provide mental health therapy to isolated patients via telehealth, but many insurers only reimburse for in-person therapy sessions. 

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