Fears of feeling isolated, alone and scared have impacted the mental health statuses of so many children, adolescents and adults globally.
September marks Suicide Prevention Month and many companies like Amerigroup are taking this time to highlight mental health initiatives available to those in need.
“Mental health is not new but it’s not something people have wanted to talk about,” Bhavini Solanki, Director of the Foster Care Program, Amerigroup Community Care said. “Everyone deals with mental health in some form. With kids in the Foster Care system it is an issue that needs to be addressed.”
Amerigroup has partnered with entities such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities to provide resources surrounding mental health and suicide prevention.
“A plus of the pandemic is mental health is finally getting a light shined on it. Suicide in our teenagers has really escaped during this time as well as kids in care. The work NAMI and the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities do is critical because it’s getting information out to the community in a safe simple way,” Solanki said.
Amerigroup recently held an “Ending the Silence Virtual Community Forum” where they informed attendees about the warning signs of mental health conditions and the steps to take if them or a loved one is showing symptoms.
“Warning signs are going to be things liked increased aggressive behavior, dramatic mood swings, impulsive behaviors or increased drug and/or alcohol use,” Solanki said, the steps after identifying them is where things get critical. Often times suicidality is such a scary topic for medical professionals and mental health professionals. Step one is listening and hearing what they have to say. Don’t be afraid of asking questions.
“A common fear or myth about the talk of suicide is I might give this person an idea about suicide if I bring it up. Asking questions and assessing what this person is going to do is important. If they say they’re going to cut their wrist, where are they going to get the weapon to do that with? The next step is how can I remove those items or contact to those items,” Solanki said.
COVID-19 is steadily causing an epidemic of mental health issues in not only adults but children as well. Sometimes finding methods and/or tools that children can use to help better acclimate themselves to this ‘new normal’ can be difficult, uncomfortable and downright frustrating.
“Kids in the Foster care system are already dealing with separation from their family and then with the pandemic you have this additional layer of isolation and now you’re stuck in a home with these people you don’t know. The Georgia Crisis Access Line opened up text accessibility specifically targeted towards teenage youth populations. They can send a text and get help from clinicians on the other side,” Solanki said.
“A benefit of Amerigroup is we have case management services that are assigned. We have an 800 number people can enroll in and it helps them navigate the system with the help of a manager. They’re not a treatment provider but they make sure they’re meeting their goals of seeking a provider or setting an appointment that can help navigate that system,” Solanki said.
The pandemic has caused increased rates of depression, yet, a steady decline in the number of adults and children seeking mental wellness help.
“The con to having to be at home or not around so many people is that isolation really limits how many people you can express yourself to. It leaves people to social media which can be a negative because you’re hearing things and there is so much misinformation out there. NAMI has a great community presence and the information we have out there whether on Facebook or our website helps people learn there are providers for them,” Solanki said.
The COVID-19 Delta Variant has increased the already overwhelming amount of people that have had a direct impact from the pandemic and problems coping.
“I think everyone needs to get vaccinated. The studies have shown thats what going to help combat this and allow us to return to some sense of normalcy. Social groups and tele health services are available,” Solanki said, a plus of the pandemic is providers around the world are using tele heath. Not having to wait in a waiting room is great. There is no more stigma around not making an appointment because people are going to see me or the building I’m walking into. Telehealth is more private.
“The benefit of medicaid is copays are covered for all types of therapy including individual therapy, group therapy and family therapy. It’s all about investigating, researching and calling that number on the back of the card. There are providers who work on pro-bono or sliding scales as well so it doesn’t hurt to ask,” Solanki said.
“In treatment, and I’m speaking as a clinician, there is no straight trajectory. When you’re dealing with trauma and behavioral health things are going to show up. It may feel like you’re declining but that may not be the case. As long as you’re working on it, it’s progress,” Solanki said.