“It’s never a wrong time to seek treatment to take care of your mental health,” says Dr. Desreen Dudley, pictured above. Dr. Dudley is a licensed therapist and a senior behavioral health quality consultant with Teladoc Health.
Q: We use a lot of terms within the wellness space, such as mental health, anxiety, self-care—can you define these terms as a baseline?
A: Mental health refers to one’s emotional and psychological well-being. Anxiety refers to worry, nervousness or feelings of doom about a future event and/or a situation in which the outcome is uncertain, often considered uncontrolled worry. Self-care refers to engaging in activities aimed at improving or promoting one’s health and whole being, including physical, psychological and emotional well-being. In my role at Teladoc, I help people address their mental health and anxiety concerns and encourage them to engage in self-care—especially at times like these.
Q: How important is it to be aware of mental health and to manage it?
A: It is extremely important for all of us to have mental health awareness; that is, understanding that mental health is important by talking openly about what is needed in order to take care of it and accepting the state of one’s mental health. In other words, understanding what aspects of one’s mental health is good and what areas may need improvement.
The danger of not managing mental health appropriately is that poor management is reflected in poor coping strategies and self-destructive behaviors, which place a person at risk for chronic medical conditions due to poor lifestyle choices or overall decline in functioning.
Q: Why is it important to find ways of managing stress and impatience?
A: Unmanaged stress can take a toll on our mental and physical well-being. I’ve treated clients who have developed medical problems, such as high blood pressure, due to operating under a high level of stress. I have also seen pre-existing medical conditions worsen due to unmanaged stress and anxiety.
The key is to focus on controlling the things we can control and letting go of what we cannot. Stress is a normal part of life; we just need to manage it effectively.
Q: How can therapy services benefit moms or anyone who is experiencing anxiety or feelings of being overwhelmed?
A: Teladoc is dedicated to helping parents have one less worry, and telehealth is a great benefit for moms wanting to take care of their mental health. It is a form of self-care!
Moms, in particular, have experienced increased stress and anxiety since the start of the pandemic, as they are often juggling work and child care responsibilities. Therapy is a way for moms to set aside time for themselves to learn coping strategies to reduce anxiety as well as learn how to reset their expectations for themselves and restructure their daily routine in order to reduce feeling overburdened with all the responsibilities they face.
Q: Why is it important for mothers to not neglect their own health during our new normal?
A: At Teladoc, we understand mothers are often the chief worry officer of the family and take on the brunt of household and child care responsibilities.
When mothers ignore their own health needs, they may fall victim to more severe illnesses, such as increased blood pressure, weight gain, poor management of existing medical conditions, increased stress, anxiety and depression, reflective of feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. In order to be the best they can be to their families, mothers must give themselves the best care by prioritizing their physical and mental health needs. Teladoc allows mothers and caregivers to connect with a vast network of providers who can best support their own health needs.
Q: Retirement is a dramatic “life course transition” that can impact one’s health. Are there things that one should do to optimize mental wellness after retirement?
A: Retirement is a major life transition. It can feel like a loss of one’s sense of self.
To optimize mental wellness after retirement, I recommend focusing on a new source of meaning and value. For example, my father has found much value in volunteering and giving back to the community. I also recommend finding enjoyable hobbies and trying new ones! Staying active is beneficial for all ages, and physically active people who are older extend their longevity and keep their minds flexible.
Q: How about teens and pre-teens. Are there any specific new ideas you would suggest for teens and pre-teens to optimize their mental wellness?
A: Those currently in their teens and pre-teens are growing up in an era where mental health has less stigma attached to it than previous generations. Therapy is a common and acceptable option for them.
Social media can be a great source of stress for teens and pre-teens. They should be encouraged to limit screen time and engage in physical and pro-social activities to build self-confidence, self-esteem, communication skills and a sense of belonging. Teens and pre-teens can’t optimize their mental wellness without the support of a parent. As a parent of a pre-teen boy myself, I know teens’ and pre-teens’ mental wellness is connected to how their parents support them; therefore, these ideas are for parents as well.
Q: What are the signs when you or someone you may know is struggling with mental health?
A: While an evaluation with a licensed mental health professional is the best way to know if someone is struggling with a mental health condition, there are some signs that can be indicative of this.
- Change in one’s typical mood, like a generally content person becoming sad or irritable most or all of the time
- Odd, bizarre or unusual behavior, such as suspiciousness, irritability and argumentativeness
- Problems with cognition, including concentrating, poor focus and difficulty staying on task, lack of attention, forgetting
- Disruption in sleep patterns and changes in appetite
- Social withdrawal, like disconnecting from family or friends, loss of interest in activities typically enjoyed
- Decline in functioning—decreased performance at work, dropping grades in school, not tending to daily activities one usually manages well
Q: For those struggling with mental health, or for family members who see their loved ones struggling, what do you recommend?
A: The pandemic has seen a major uptick in people requesting mental health services through virtual care. If you or someone you care about is struggling with mental health concerns, I recommend seeking out a mental health provider to talk to about what you are feeling and learn adaptive coping strategies. It’s important to get yourself—or someone you know—help right away without worries of health coverage. Teladoc, for example, provides mental health services to individuals regardless of insurance. Teladoc offers virtual care that is quick, easy and convenient for people to access and allows them to meet virtually with a therapist or psychiatrist within days or weeks.
“If you are wondering if you should seek help, that’s a sign that you should! It’s never a wrong time to seek treatment to take care of your mental health.”
Q: When should you reach out for help?
A: If you are wondering if you should seek help, that’s a sign that you should! It’s never a wrong time to seek treatment to take care of your mental health. Teladoc offers virtual care to take care of one’s health with confidence and is easy to access, safe and affordable.
Q: Please describe the mental health/therapy services provided by Teladoc. How does it work?
A: Telehealth mental health and specialty visits are spiking at over 500% compared to last year alone. Teladoc has a large network of mental health providers, which includes board-certified psychiatrists who can prescribe common medications effective in treating mental health, and psychologists and therapists licensed in all 50 states.
Whether members are seeking talk therapy or medications for their mental health needs, they can select a mental health provider from their state and simply schedule an appointment that is convenient for them.
During the initial visit with a psychiatrist or therapist, the member will discuss their mental health concerns and symptoms and be assessed by the mental health specialist, including a discussion of treatment recommendations. Treatment is collaborative; therefore, the member and mental health provider can determine what medications may be initiated and if therapy will be ongoing and what the goals of treatment can be.
As Dr. Dudley makes clear, our emotional and psychological health is vital not only for our mental well-being but for our physical well-being as well. Thankfully, therapy is more accessible than ever due to the availability of services like Teladoc, which allows those in need to get help regardless of location or insurance coverage. If you or someone you love is in need of therapy, sign in to your Teladoc account to request a visit or click here to learn more.
Updated November 1, 2021