The month of May marks mental health awareness month, and the demand for mental health services continues as we come out of the pandemic.
The World Health Organization found that during the first year of the pandemic, anxiety and depression increased by 25 percent globally.
Here in the Coachella Valley, experts say they’ve seen a rising need for help as well.
Although awareness aims to get rid of the stigma of seeking mental health services, people sometimes don’t know where to start when it comes to receiving care.
Licensed social worker, Gwen Harville-Washington shared some tips if you’re looking for therapy services for the first time.
“I really would recommend looking at Psychology Today, for example, going on, looking at profiles, seeing who might be a good fit, checking with their insurance to see who the therapists are in the area who are contracted with their insurance,” says Harville-Washington.
Harville-Washington also recommends scheduling a consultation meeting, “I would recommend trying to set up maybe just a few minutes to talk to someone initially. See what their methods are, what their schedules are like, where their schedules work with their work schedules or live schedules, get a feel for what their personality is like, you know, what’s the experience they’ve had on working on a particular issue.”
Sara Baker, licensed marriage and family therapist has seen the demand in therapy rise firsthand.
In fact, Baker opened her own private practice in the Coachella Valley during the pandemic, hiring ten licensed therapists and she’s still hoping to expand her team.
“We grew and we expanded and then as we continued to grow, we saw more referrals come in, more people seeking this out and we were able to serve more people because we’re doing telehealth. So that’s been really expansive in terms of the amount of people we’re able to serve and the amount of therapists we’re able to bring on.”
Baker says virtual therapy sessions have helped decrease waitlist times and cancellations.
People seeking mental health services can also contact local organizations, congregations and nonprofits for help, especially if money is an issue.
Dr. Jill Hingston, Director of Behavioral Health Services at The Center in Palm Springs shares, “We offer our community low cost counseling. We also have it on sliding scale. So it’s anywhere from 5 to 75 dollars. We don’t take insurance and we have another program where we contract with Riverside County. Folks can receive up to 25 free sessions of therapy if they qualify.”
The National Alliance on Mental Illness chapter in Coachella Valley is committed to providing resources and peer counseling to people who are seeking mental health services, along with the friends and family that want to learn how to better support them.
George Thomstad, NAMI Board Member and treasurer, tells News Channel 3 the NAMI chapter in Coachella Valley started 38 years ago.
The organization is volunteer ran and all of their services are free of charge.
Peer counseling meetings are offered virtually the second and fourth of the month. The meetings start at 7:30 p.m. and run for an hour and a half.
If you are interested in signing up you can visit namicoachellavalley.org or give them a call at 442-275-7385.