April 12, 2020 – by Madeline Hughes and Julie Huss
The Eagle Tribune
Her children set the smoke alarm off, again.
It’s one of the background noises that Londonderry-based therapist Kelley Parsons hears in her new home office where she now conducts “telehealth” sessions, seeing clients through cameras and on a screen rather than in the office.
Therapists, like Parsons, and other mental health organizations are turning to online tools to stay in touch with clients during the coronavirus crisis.
Parsons’ practice, Choices Counseling of Londonderry, went online quickly when clinicians realized face-to-face sessions wouldn’t be the safest choice. Her sessions are going well, she said.
She’s checking in with clients to insure they have been taking care of themselves mentally and physically, helping them to avoid severe depression and anxiety during what is a very difficult time.
Physical exercise, sleeping well, seeking counseling, doing meditation and socializing are the most important factors of a healthy mind and body, she said.
Similar to Choices Counseling, The Center for Life Management, or CLM, in Derry and Salem, has continued its comprehensive behavioral health care via teleheath, phone or video, including services typically office-based like therapy sessions and medical visits, case management services and functional support services.
Steven Arnault, CLM’s vice president of clinical services, said issues dealing with COVID-19, along with the regular every day challenges clients face adds additional stress.
When the virus hit and individuals and families began remaining at home, Arnault said CLM moved forward with a strong action plan to make sure services went uninterrupted.
While many services went online or over the phone, some clients still need to be seen in person, Arnault said.
“It’s very hard to do a therapy session on the phone with a 4-year-old,” he said.
And not all clients have access to technology, Arnault said. The isolation now can also cause added stress to those already struggling, so “we are seeing an uptick in people needing services,” he said.
“It’s OK to not feel OK and ask for help,” said National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) New Hampshire Executive Director Ken Norton.
The organization provides information, education and advocacy around mental health issues in the state.
NAMI also wants to help ensure people aren’t overwhelming emergency rooms for mental health crises. There are resources on its website, naminh.org, to help find local providers, Norton said.
Classes and peer support have gone online, Norton said. They’ve trained and will continue to train volunteers online as well, he added.
He explained that peer support groups might be a avenue for someone who is lonely to find social interaction, adding people can call “warm lines” to talk to someone if they aren’t in crisis but need support.
All three providers agreed with Norton, that they need to “rethink their routine” to cope with the new normal and to find ways to make sure “social distancing doesn’t become social isolation,” he said.
They also were in agreement that people should take a break from the constant barge of news.
“It’s an important time to check the news, but checking in one to two times a day is sufficient,” Norton said.
Center For Life Management: Emergency services are available around the clock by calling 603-434-1577. More information can be found at centerforlifemanagement.org.
NAMI New Hampshire: Call their information and resource line at 1-800-242-6264 or visit naminh.org/resources-2/covid-19 for more information on specific resources related to mental health and coronavirus. There is also information on obtaining health insurance if you have lost it from your employer.