It goes without saying that a global pandemic is anxiety-inducing.
Around the world, people are trying to understand the changing realities of life under the veil of COVID-19. We’re commiserating about it with our friends, struggling to explain it to our children, and experiencing growing obstacles to a sense of security or even sanity. For those who already suffer from mental health issues, COVID-19 presents a host of new and acute stressors, and this is just as much the case in El Paso as it is internationally.
Heightened mental health impacts linked to coronavirus can take many forms, and are being observed by a wide range of community leaders and mental health professionals. Dr. Fabrizzio Delgado, division chief for the psychiatry consult service at Texas Tech Physicians of El Paso, notes that El Paso has seen an increase in emergency room visits linked to acute mental illness.
“Right now our patients are being impacted by very severe social stress, that’s why so many people are coming back to the emergency department,” he said.
Delgado said emergency rooms are receiving many first-time mental health patients: “We’re seeing a lot of people who weren’t looking for mental health help before, because this pressure is impacting them in a way that didn’t happen in the past.”
El Paso leaders and community organizations are adapting resources and support structures to accommodate mental health needs in the context of COVID-19.
Escobar hosts telephone town hall
Rep. Veronica Escobar will be hosting a bilingual tele-townhall Tuesday focused on mental health and domestic violence issues linked to COVID-19, and sharing resources that are out there for El Pasoans.
“As El Paso faces an unprecedented economic and health crisis, protecting our mental health and raising awareness about domestic violence prevention should be a collective community effort,” Escobar said in a statement.
Escobar will be speaking with local leaders from organizations including Emergence Health Network and El Paso Child Guidance Center. El Pasoans can join the tele-town hall by calling (866) 416-5213.
Help for children and parents
Cathy Gaytan, executive director of El Paso Child Guidance Center, said that one of her biggest concerns is that people who would benefit from community mental health services are not seeking help.
“Connection is a coping skill. Reaching out and talking to somebody can be a huge lifeline,” Gaytan said.
She said the Child Guidance Center not only provides services to children and adolescents, but also is a resource for parents and caregivers who may be struggling to talk with their kids about the pandemic, or are concerned about their child’s emotional well-being.
The center’s Facebook page offers tips and resources for parents and caregivers, and Gaytan emphasizes that therapists are ready and available to help, and that all services have been switched to tele-help. Interested El Pasoans can reach out at 915-562-1999 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
More use of telepsychiatry
Dr. Delgado said most mental health providers have switched to a telepsychiatry model of care, which has enabled therapists and psychiatrists to maintain continuity of service.
“Mental health is not elective. We have switched to the telepsychiatry modality, but in regards to access, we haven’t closed any of our offices, none of our clinics have closed. Switching modalities has allowed us to keep providing services,” he said.
Delgado emphasizes that support and therapists are available, and that most patients will not need in-person consultations and can benefit from telepsychiatry.
The University of Texas at El Paso has also swiftly transformed and expanded mental health services and virtual forms of support for students, faculty, and staff, implementing video conference and phone therapy, virtual support groups, online workshops and other counseling resources.
Laura James, psychologist and outreach coordinator for UTEP’s office of Counseling and Psychological Services says that while it is normal to feel some added anxiety and stress given the coronavirus pandemic, “if it’s becoming a daily struggle or something that’s keeping you awake at night, it’s important to seek help. If anybody is experiencing anxiety to the point where they’re having panic attacks or depressive symptoms, that’s definitely a moment when they should be reaching out for help from a professional.”
Resources offering mental health assistance
Growing online resources provide additional help for those struggling with mental illness. Mental Health America has compiled a detailed list of informational links and resources connected to mental health in the time of COVID-19, including tools for anxiety, “warmlines” for early intervention, and webinars/ live online workshops.
The EP COVID-19 Info Hub also has an extensive list of El Paso-specific mental health resources and organizations. The resounding message from local, national, and international community leaders is that although this is a time of intense collective anxiety and increased hardship, help is out there.
From EP COVID-19 Info Hub Mental Health Resource List:
“It’s normal to be anxious during uncertain times. There are resources available if you are in a mental health crisis.
Emergence Health Network is the state’s mental health authority in El Paso. Call one of these hotlines to reach a crisis counselor 24-hours a day: (877) 562-6467 or (915) 779-1800.
In New Mexico crisis counselors can be reached at any time by calling 24/7 at (855) 662-7474.
The National Alliance of Mental Illness-El Paso has created a page with online and by-phone resources for tor individuals and families in need of mental health services, including non-crisis emotional support, online emotional support meetings, peer support and more.
Family Service of El Paso is continuing to provide families with mental health services through online and phone telehealth support. Visit online or call (915) 781-9900.
The El Paso Child Guidance Center is closed to on-site sessions, however, help is available by phone and telehealth from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Call 915-562-1999 for information.
El Paso Child Guidance Center has the following available:
• Current openings for psychotherapy services for children, youth and their families
• Current openings for psychiatric services for children and adolescents
• Telehealth services by licensed, best-practice trained clinicians and psychiatrists
• Virtual psychoeducation Resilience Groups and individual consultation services for advocates
• Virtual trauma-informed educational and training services via live and on-demand webinars for organizations and professionals.
Those seeking discreet online video counseling sessions for individuals or families should contact the Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinics by phone, 915-320-1390, or email at EPclinic@endeavors.org to schedule an appointment.
The Texas Department of Health and Human Service has launched a statewide mental health support lineto help Texans experiencing anxiety or stress due to the COVID-19 pandemic. People can call the Statewide COVID-19 Mental Health Support Line 24 hours a day, 7 days a week toll-free at 833-986-1919.
Project Vida Health Center is offering telehealth, including mental health services, for El Paso and Hudspeth counties. To learn more visit Project Vida Health Center online, call 915-533-7057 or contact Rachel Quintanilla, LMSW Chief Behavioral Health Officer at R.Quintanilla@Pvida.Net or 915-637-9373.
Aliviane is offering telehealth services, including mental health and substance abuse support via video conference for El Paso and Hudspeth county individuals and families in need. For more information visit online, call 915-782-4000 or email email@example.com.
The Salvation Army has established a place anyone affected by COVID-19 can call for emotional and spiritual support. The hotline is available from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week at (844) 458-HOPE (4673).
Behavioral Health teleservices are available for individual or group therapy, as well as medication management services. Self-help meetings are also available online or by phone. For information contact Stephanie Reiss at 575-640-1678 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. To schedule an appointment, contact 575-647-2800.”