Grand Strand mental health counseling center adapts to social distancing with telehealth services

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CAROLINA FOREST, SC (WBTW) – Many mental health centers and counselors are adapting the way they care for clients amidst the coronavirus pandemic.

One Grand Strand therapist tells News13 they kickstarted their telehealth program, ready to help prevent depression and suicide rates from increasing locally due to the pandemic.

Coastal Haven Counseling is giving their clients the option of a telehealth appointment or still coming by the office for their appointment, due to social distancing requirements.

Therapist and Coastal Haven Counseling owner Sandy Quast says they’ve started telehealth visits through a website called doxy.me to keep up with the increased anxiety due to the coronavirus.

“Anxiety, depression and social isolation is even worse now, and a lot of people have lost their jobs,” said Quast.

The National Institute for Mental Health reports in a year, 18% of people will struggle with an anxiety disorder. Quast tells News13 there’s been an increased level of anxiety due to the coronavirus, but she says apps like Headspace will help to ease the tension.

Quast says social isolation is one thing they discourage for those with depression, so the new social distancing requirements could worsen depression.

She recommends downloading apps like Headspace or Calm that lets you do breathing and mindfulness exercises for free.

“It’s somebody with a relaxing voice, kind of guiding us, so we’re not trying to meditate, it’s just listening and helps to relax,” she said.

Although they’re seeing less in-person appointments, telehealth helps those with depression avoid social isolation while social distancing because they can speak face to face with someone.

One challenge using telehealth was that only Blue Cross Blue Shield and Medicare covered telehealth visits.

“Our concern was, you know, a lot of them had medicaid, and so, with medicaid initially, they were limiting us so much, so we were just going to end up doing pro bono services, because we weren’t going to let something happen to them,” said Quast.

Just days ago, the South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services made temporary changes to allow medicaid to cover six telehealth sessions per month.

“We’ve got a lot of people who have zero income, and unfortunately, a lot of those industries, you know, they may be living week to week typically anyway, so there’s a lot of additional stress with that,” Quast pointed out.

Go to Coastal Haven Counseling’s website here to set up a telehealth or in-person appointment.

If you are feeling helpless, there are resources out there to help you. The National Suicide Hotline is available 24/7. It includes a web chat feature if you do not want to talk on the phone. The hotline is 1-800-273-8255 and the web link can be reached by clicking here.

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