How Telehealth Can Help People With Depression

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You may hear medical providers talk about the benefits of telehealth for depression–also referred to as telemental health, telepsych, telepsychiatry, telemedicine for psychiatry, and teletherapy. But no matter what you call it, telehealth can help many people who struggle with depression, for a variety of reasons. Typically conducted over video chat, telehealth for depression can be a valuable tool as you work to stay on top of your mental health.

With telehealth, you may be more likely to keep your appointment.

Telehealth is essentially the use of technology to connect you with a healthcare expert who can diagnose or treat your condition. Because you’re using audio/visual technology to connect, you don’t have to be in the same place as your psychiatrist, psychologist, or counselor.

That’s key because depression itself might make it harder for you to make and keep an in-person appointment with your healthcare professional. Consider these common symptoms of depression which may impede your best intentions:

These can all be roadblocks on the way to getting treatment that helps you feel stronger, healthier and more in control of your life. Depression can sometimes make it hard to even get out of bed. But if you talk to your doctor over telehealth, you might not even have to do that. Since showing up for your appointment can be as simple as tapping a link on your smartphone, you might find it’s a little easier to overcome these obstacles and get the care you need.

Plus, depression often goes hand in hand with other medical conditions that may require multiple visits to a doctor’s office or hospital. A telehealth visit for depression can reduce the number of trips you have to take to be seen in person. That’s especially good news during flu season or during a pandemic, when you want to stay away from other people (and their germs) as much as possible.

You may appreciate the convenience factor of telehealth.

So, we’ve established you don’t have to leave home for a telehealth appointment. That’s key if you’re finding it hard to schedule appointments to see your doctor or counselor due to work or family obligations. Rather than take a couple of hours (or more) off from your job, or arrange childcare for your children, you just have to carve out the time for your actual telehealth appointment. You can set up your laptop or any other device with a high-speed internet connection in a quiet corner of your home and then log in shortly before the appointment starts. No driving across town, no searching for a parking space, or changing buses or trains on public transit. Plus, you may find you’re more comfortable talking to your doctor from the comfort of your own home. That said, before your appointment, make sure to find a private spot in your home–or even get set up in your car–so you can feel confident being honest and forthright with your doctor about your mental state without worrying that family members might overhear.

You can get access to the treatment you need using telehealth.

Depression is hard to live with, but it can be treated. Most cases of depression are treated with psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of the two, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. With a virtual doctor’s visit scheduled, you’ll get the care you need when you connect with your mental health provider online. When you see each other’s faces appear on your respective computer, smartphone, or tablet screens, your doctor or counselor can begin the conversation and conduct the appointment with you, just as they would if you were in the same room together.

Another benefit: a telehealth appointment provides access to your doctor to discuss your medication. Some antidepressants can take several weeks to take effect before they start making you feel more like yourself. However, if a few weeks have gone by, and nothing has improved, that’s worth having a conversation about.

Antidepressants can have side effects, too. You may have trouble tolerating some of the side effects, and you may want to talk to your doctor about altering the dose or even switching to a different medication. A telehealth appointment can be an opportunity to touch base with your doctor and discuss those side effects and the possible options. Together, you may decide it’s worth trying a different medication, and your doctor can walk you through the process of tapering down on your current medication and then beginning the new one.

Telehealth can be an easy way to talk to your doctor between scheduled appointments. You may realize you have questions or concerns that can’t wait for your next virtual visit. A telehealth appointment might be easier to schedule than an in-person one. You may be able to connect with your doctor in between virtual visits through secure messages submitted through your patient portal.

Depression is not an easy thing to manage, but using tools like telehealth can help you balance your mental health and improve your overall wellbeing.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Oct 20
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
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  7. Warren JC and Smalley KB. Using Telehealth to Meet Mental Health Needs During the COVID-19 Crisis. https://www.commonwealthfund.org/blog/2020/using-telehealth-meet-mental-health-needs-during-covid-19-crisis
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