The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the United States particularly hard. According to a report conducted by the CDC, over 40 percent of American adults have reported at least one adverse mental or behavioral health condition; over 30 percent have experienced symptoms of an anxiety disorder or depressive disorder; more than 26 percent have had symptoms of a trauma- and stressor-related disorder (TSRD); and over 13 percent have reported substance abuse issues related to coping with the pandemic.
Additionally, during this time when depression and anxiety are rising among our population, mental healthcare workers face required social isolation, too, which prevents them from connecting closely with patients. No longer are they able to connect with patients in traditional formats. Instead, they have been forced to learn to utilize online platforms for sessions – and time has proven many were not prepared or qualified to do so. As a result, quality mental health treatment has been more challenging to attain and apps like Talkspace have been more popular than ever.
The state of Nevada has been no exception. According to officials, every facet of Nevadan life has been impacted by COVID-19. This includes loss of jobs, loved ones, housing, food, and financial security. To help combat current challenges, Mayor Schieve and the Reno City Council voted to approve CARES Act dollars (the COVID-19 relief legislation passed by Congress earlier this year) to fund a groundbreaking mental health collaboration between Talkspace, the City of Reno, and Hopeful Cities from iFred (International Foundation for Research and Education on Depression).
Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve stated: “Now, more than ever, people are feeling incredibly isolated. People have been at home for months on end, and our lives have changed. No one should suffer in silence. Everyone needs to be at the table. We need to find ways to secure better access and to make sure no one gets denied services based on ability to pay. I’m grateful my entire council realizes the magnitude of this mental health epidemic.”
This marks a major milestone for mental health across the country: It is the first relationship of its kind between a city and Talkspace, made possible by the CARES Act.
Talkspace, founded in 2012, is an online therapy platform that connects individuals with licensed therapists and psychiatrists. Their mission is to “provide more people with convenient access to licensed therapists who can help those in need live a happier and healthier life.” Via private online therapy rooms that are HIPAA-compliant, members of Talkspace are provided a platform to connect with their therapist either through text, video, or voice messages; clients are also able to schedule private live video sessions.
Every therapist and psychiatrist employed with Talkspace has been carefully vetted; all therapists are fully licensed with over 3,000 hours of clinical experience – clients never see interns or therapists who are not fully licensed or who are still under supervision.
The newly established relationship provides Reno residents 13 years and older access to unlimited Talkspace services. According to supporters, this “marks the removal of a critical barrier to accessing mental health support services in a flexible, convenient, affordable and remote manner.” It is an essential step to helping those facing mental health concerns during such unprecedented times.
“Like every city and town in this country, Reno is experiencing high levels of stress right now,” said Talkspace Chief Medical Officer Dr. Neil Leibowitz. “Most people need access to care but are not able to get it – whether that’s because of cost, convenience, or the ability to find the right provider. With today’s unanimous vote, Mayor Schieve and the City Council recognized the need to expand access to care. We are honored to serve the people of Reno, and we look forward to partnering with our network of local clinicians to provide support free of charge to Reno citizens.”
More than 200,000 citizens of Reno will have access to Talkspace’s mental health services, a therapy app which, to date, has helped over 2 million people. Beginning December 21, 2020, those facing mental health challenges can utilize the platform to cope with stressors induced by COVID-19. Reports by the CDC have disclosed that some of the most common stressors caused by the pandemic have included: increased feelings of fear and worry; changes in sleep or eating patterns; difficulty sleeping or concentrating; worsening of chronic health problems; worsening of mental health conditions, and increased use of tobacco, alcohol, and other substances. Therapists on Talkspace are trained to help individuals facing these circumstances learn to discuss and cope with such traumatic experiences.
Additional services offered by Talkspace during the pandemic also include:
- A coronavirus Facebook support group
- COVID-19 Instagram Channel
- Coronavirus Resource Hub
The partnership between Talkspace and the City of Reno is creating history. For the first time, mental health services will be made available to all residents of a community. Not only is it a milestone in overcoming the stigma surrounding digital therapy, but providing that care for free moves the city one step closer to reducing disparities in access to mental healthcare. Now, access to mental healthcare will not be based on location, socioeconomic status, or the ability to take time off from work; instead, all individuals from different backgrounds and varying communities will now have access to the care they deserve.
If you are a Reno resident and are interested in learning how to gain access to a Talkspace therapist, fill out the Talkspace form to validate your eligibility, and get connected.