Military mental health virtual appointments surge during pandemic

The Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic at The Up Center.jpeg
Posted at 10:11 AM, May 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-11 17:20:21-04

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - In the six months after The Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic at The Up Center opened last summer, about a dozen clients sought services via telehealth. Then the pandemic happened.

In the last month, telehealth sessions have surged, increasing 1300% as nearly all 230 clients have transitioned to virtual appointments.

Sarah Pitzen is the lead clinician and says not only did the pandemic necessitate the move to telehealth, but it has also created additional need for services.

"We are seeing an uptick of in need of services right now, especially from the clients who we were already seeing. Their pre-existing conditions have been exacerbated, particularly when we are talking about financial stress or lack of sleep or even just being in the same household as family members for an extended period of time. Those pre-existing conditions have worsened over time," Pitzen told News 3 anchor Todd Corillo.

The clinic serves post-9/11 veterans and their families, as well as family members of active-duty service members.

A recent poll conducted by the Cohen Veterans Network, America’s Mental Health Pulse Study, found that post-9/11 veterans are more aware of telehealth mental health services and are much more likely to use them.

"Post-9/11 veterans and their family members are about five times more likely to access telehealth because they are used to using it on deployments," Pitzen commented.

Having sessions from the comfort of home is also allowing clinicians to understand more about the conditions a client might be experiencing.

"The nice thing about that is the clinician has access to see kind of what’s going on in the background which can be helpful when talking about mental health needs," Pitzen said.

Clinicians have also worked to make sure services are still available for children during the public health crisis.

With the pandemic bringing on more stressors, Pitzen says now is the time to reach out and get help if you need it.

"The more we can engage right now, then the more likely we are going to be able to save lives, families and their potential futures. The point being, the sooner people reach out for help, the better."

You can learn more about The Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic at The Up Center and the services they provide here.

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