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From worsening COVID-19 surges to economic distress and political and social unrest, people around the world are facing turbulent times, and it’s taking a toll on our mental health. Recent surveys show that more than half of American adults are suffering from mental health issues because of the pandemic, and 64% of U.S. physicians say the crisis has intensified their sense of burnout.

By the time this blog publishes, the winter and holiday season will be upon us and likely to bring new challenges. Cold weather will limit the options for safe socializing, and public health officials are encouraging people to shift to virtual celebrations or gatherings that only include members of their household to reduce the rapid spread of the virus.

Given the turmoil, it’s not surprising to see a growing demand for mental health care and addiction support. Even those who have historically been able to manage depression and anxiety symptoms are increasingly reaching out for assistance. As we attempt to care for ourselves and others, the burden can feel quite heavy. So how do we get through this?

The health care industry must continue to adapt in order to meet the mental needs of patients. Early in the pandemic, many providers quickly shifted to virtual care. They now need to ensure that any short-term solutions that were previously implemented can withstand what is becoming the long-term.

Technology and data can be powerful tools in ensuring consistent, high-quality mental health services.

Since the onset of the pandemic, Cerner has updated our behavioral health EHR workflows across the continuum of care to help streamline COVID-19 identification and screening. We’ve also developed COVID-19 dashboards to give leaders clean views of key information around hospital capacities, critical resources and other metrics. In addition, our teams have developed financial analytics dashboards to help behavioral health organizations assess financial health as the pandemic continues.

We must also keep evolving what we’ve learned over the course of these months and keep the lines of communication open across the industry so we can share experiences, findings and best practices. Having the means in place to accommodate the growing demand for mental health services is more critical now than ever.

Prioritizing the mental health of clinicians is equally important to manage these difficult times. There are many steps that organizations can take to better support their clinicians and staff during the challenging months ahead. For example, some hospitals have provided meals for staff and their families, while others have coordinated childcare options for health care workers. Having strong processes in place and offering help in these areas can alleviate some of the burdens that medical professionals are enduring.

And we can’t forget to care for ourselves. If we aren’t giving attention to our own mental health and well-being, then we can’t be as helpful to others. Staying physically distant is recommended but finding ways to safely stay socially connected to loved ones remains essential. 

In these stressful times, mental health care is more important than ever. Technology and data combined with a focus on well-being and industry collaboration can help us provide safe, efficient and effective care and prevent clinician burnout.

If you or someone you know needs help, consider these mental health resources.

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Help Line: 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
  • 1-800-662-4357Crisis Text Line: Text HELLO to 741741.
  • Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255 and press 1 or text to 838255.
  • Disaster Distress Helpline: 1-800-985-5990 or text “TalkWithUs” to 66746.
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