How Telehealth Has Minimized the Mental Health Stigma

By Devin Partida, Editor-in-Chief,
Twitter: @rehackmagazine

Mental health care has long been thought of by many as a private subject. However, telehealth has enabled people to be open about mental health awareness. It uniquely normalizes care and reduces related stigma.

Accessible Health Care

Telehealth lets patients contact their providers through messaging or video chat. Additionally, they can use remote monitoring devices to transfer relevant health data, making care accessible. Instead of visiting in person or spending time running tests, it allows them quick access to their medical care.

Telehealth makes health care accessible by giving patients:

  • More time: Some people might not visit the doctor because they can’t call off work. Because no travel is involved, it lets people see their doctor on break or after their shift
  • More transparency: Doctors deliver patient records and data online instead of verbally. It helps people track what they’ve discussed and gives them an easily accessible log of their visits.
  • Less distance: No matter how far someone lives from their doctor, they can speak to them remotely. In addition, wearable technology makes distance care simple.
  • Specialized care: Patients can see specialists remotely to reduce lengthy wait times or travel distances.

People are likely to seek treatment for mental health if technology gives them options.

Accessible care also minimizes the stigma surrounding mental health. For example, people experiencing emergency episodes can get help immediately instead of struggling and feeling ashamed. They can message or email when concerned about their symptoms.

It can make visits better for some. The team at UH Cleveland Medical Center Behavioral Health noticed patients suffering from paranoia were more comfortable interacting online than in person.

Virtual health care puts them in charge of their location and provider, which relaxes them. In the future, it might offer alternatives for providing care to people with certain mental illnesses. Noninvasive options will put them at ease and increase the possibility that they’ll be comfortable seeking care.

Protected Patient Privacy

Patients use telehealth to go to an appointment from the comfort of their homes or vehicles. They can choose a setting that ensures privacy — unlike waiting rooms where they might encounter someone they know.

Private communication with their provider allows them to access their data whenever they want. Some people with mental health issues struggle with memory, so having a digital record is helpful. For example, ADHD can lead to working and long-term memory problems. Technology provides an avenue for care that prioritizes confidentiality and convenience for those with mental health issues.

Privacy is the primary concern for most medical facilities. They store telehealth patient data in the cloud, so proper cloud security is crucial for compliance and patient trust. Some worry that sensitive information may be leaked or exposed due to cybersecurity threats.

Despite this, many still trust virtual mental care. Telehealth continues to destigmatize mental health, so more are willing to try it. As of 2021, 66% of young adults were open to it. They see it as normal.

Patient and Doctor Connectivity

Telehealth provides a critical link between patients and their providers. At the beginning of 2020, telehealth visits rose by 50% and continued to grow throughout the year. The COVID-19 pandemic kept people from attending in-person appointments, so virtual care was the alternative.

Many with mental health challenges often face time-sensitive issues. For example, someone with anxiety might start experiencing sudden, frequent panic attacks. In this case, they’d need to see their provider as soon as possible for treatment.

Virtual care lets patients stay connected with their doctors and psychiatrists. When physical care is unavailable, it provides them with a solution. Beyond that, it destigmatizes mental health by allowing them instant contact with trusted professionals.

Individualized Care

Remote visits and monitoring let patients go to appointments comfortably. It gives them access to a diverse range of doctors — they can pick who they feel most connected to. Research shows they’re more likely to establish a beneficial relationship if they believe their doctor understands them.

Communicating about something frequently and with ease helps reduce stigma. Patients who can speak openly and immediately to a trusted provider normalize their challenges. Plus, being able to handpick a provider increases the chance more people will use telehealth.

Telehealth offers individualized care and treatment possibilities through virtual visits and remote monitoring. In the future, more people will likely accept it as a regular, reliable option.

Destigmatizing Mental Health

More people are willing to be open about their mental health because health care services are readily available online. The level of accessibility, privacy and connectivity lets them relax. It could shape the future of treatment and help more people get the help they need.