By Jeslin Romeo
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to the evolution of how services are delivered to meet the needs of individuals and families. This has led to social isolation and loneliness, which are contributing factors to negative mental and physical health. Furthermore, the economic impact of unemployment and financial constraints has led to an increase in anxiety and distress. Virtual care has opened opportunities to provide care to diverse populations and to reduce barriers in accessing services. Vulnerable groups that were previously isolated from receiving mental health services can now access services in a safe and convenient manner. Various studies have shown that virtual platforms have created opportunities for expanding capacity and quality of care (Abdalla, 2020). Virtual supports allow professionals to work with individuals facing significant barriers in accessing mental health supports. For example, transportation barriers, inability to take time off work to access services, and stigma and shame individuals feel in accessing mental health services.
For youth aged 12 to 19 years old, the internet was the third most frequently reported source of support (Clarke et al., 2017). For young adults aged 17 to 25 years old, the internet was the most frequently reported source of support for mental health and well-being (Clarke et al., 2017). Clarke et al (2017) explain how online mental health interventions provide access to resources that may otherwise not be accessible. Engaging youth in a platform they are most comfortable with is important for mental health professionals. Abdalla (2020) reports that having the opportunity to take counselling online opened new possibilities as youth were able to speak to someone in the comfort of their own homes. Abdalla (2020) notes how the virtual platform allows for increased rapport and trust building by youth accessing supports in their own home. This is important when working with individuals with anxiety because the fear of entering new situations and meeting new people is a common condition. In-person supports pose a barrier for individuals with anxiety to receive services or to have the comfort in accessing service.
Abdalla, L. (2020). Teenagers and the COVID-19 pandemic. International Journal of Narrative Therapy and Community Work, 3, 1–10.
Clarke, A. M., Chambers, D., & Barry, M. M. (2017). Bridging the digital disconnect: Exploring the views of professionals on using technology to promote young people’s mental health. School Psychology International, 38(4), 380–397. https://doi- org.libproxy.wlu.ca/10.1177/0143034317700937