Wednesday, November 29, 2023

How to make mental health care more accessible to women

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Hello, Broadsheet readers! Healthy women receive the first coronavirus vaccines, Pinterest settles its lawsuit with Françoise Brougher, and a startup that aims to make mental health services more accessible. Have a great Tuesday.

– A moment of sanity. Today’s guest essay is courtesy of our colleague Michal Lev-Ram:

Last week my husband and I received an unexpected notice from kindergarten for our 2-year-old: he had been directly exposed to COVID, and we had to go get him right away. Along with the other families in our son’s room, we were to be tested and quarantined.

This set off a chain reaction: I immediately asked my ex-husband to babysit my two older children, who live part-time with us and part-time with him, until my husband, my son and me, let’s be clear. My daughters, ages 9 and 11, should stay in their other home to minimize exposure.

So far, everyone seems to be in good health. But I can’t overstate how devastating this ordeal has been for me. In a time of uncertainty and fear, when all I wanted was to hold all my children close to me, I couldn’t. As my 11 year old daughter told me, beautifully summing up the incongruity of the situation: “It’s hard enough to socially distance myself from my friends, but I never thought I should move away. socially from my mother.

Lucky for me, I have a support network, including a therapist. When the pandemic hit last spring, we replaced our in-person appointments with virtual sessions. And I’m so glad we did. These sessions were more important than ever, giving me a dedicated time and place to talk about all the ups and downs (okay, especially the downs) of this chaotic year.

I’m just a data point in a growing trend. The pandemic has led to an increase in telemedicine across the board, but a recent Commonwealth Fund study shows behavioral health is leading the way. Among all other domains, it has the highest percentage of visits currently made online – around 40% of the total number of sessions. This has potential implications far beyond the pandemic. Access is one of the biggest barriers to therapy. Another is the cost. Telemedicine doesn’t fully address these issues, but it certainly alleviates some of the accessibility issues. This is especially true for people living in communities without an adequate supply of nearby suppliers.

Would women, who end up taking on more responsibilities at home, be more likely to turn to therapy if it were easier and less time consuming to do so? (Again, I realize that therapy is not only inconvenient, but prohibitively expensive, for many.)

Case in point: Men are generally much more likely to seek drug treatment than women. It’s just one of the fascinating treats that came out of a recent interview I did with Robin McIntosh and Lisa McLaughlin, two entrepreneurs who met at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. Their startup, Workit Health, brings together technologists, clinicians and counselors to deliver a fully digital recovery program. The goal? Make the road to recovery accessible to more people, wherever they are.

Interestingly, early results show that Workit Health’s digital-first approach delivers better retention results than traditional in-person recovery programs. Much remains to be learned about the opportunities and limitations of telemedicine and its applications to recovery and behavioral health. But with mental health issues on the rise, along with opioid and other drug overdose rates, there is a lot of room – and need – for innovation.

Although I do not suffer from addiction, I can easily see how this time of uncertainty and separation from my children, not to mention the myriad of very real threats and traumas that many of us face under the spell. pandemic, would have sent me spiraling if I did. To be honest, I broke down a bit. We all have our breaking points, and for various reasons, this particular episode hit me hard. But I feel blessed to have a place to turn. Nothing beats holding my kids close to me, but talking to someone – yes, even with Zoom – can provide comfort when needed. May we all be so lucky.

Michal Lev-Ram

Today’s Broadsheet was organized by Emma Hinchliffe.


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