There's no denying that the novel coronavirus outbreak has led to a spike in anxiousness and uncertainty—collectively and on an individual level. Because of this, mental health resources are crucial right now.
Ninety percent of Americans reported being concerned or very concerned about the outbreak, nearly half said their emotional well-being has declined, and a quarter said that their mental health worsened, in a new public poll done by market research company Ipsos.
The current situation is a perfect storm for stress, anxiety, and depression, says Robyn Flint, a clinical mental health counselor in Buchanan, Virginia. It doesn’t help that the outlets people often use to manage their mental health—gyms, your therapist's office—are closed, she notes. What's more, there's a large percentage of U.S. workers directly affected by the economic downturn caused by COVID-19 that may not be able to those afford costly services right now.
Still, finding a way to take care of your mental health is *incredibly* important—and there are options, promise. New online resources are becoming available, and many businesses are stepping up to the plate by offering free services to help people get through this.
Ahead, you'll find a whole list of ways you can access free or reduced-cost mental health, mindfulness, and self-care services during the novel coronavirus pandemic. You don't have to get through this alone.
1. Find a therapist through your employee assistance program
If you still work full time, your employer may offer an employee assistance program (EAP) as part of your benefits package. It’s designed to help address a wide range of personal problems and concerns that interfere with employees’ well-being and work performance, according to the American Psychiatric Association (APA).
EAPs vary widely from company to company as far as what types of services are offered, but mental health counseling is often included. Generally they offer a certain number of therapy sessions for free. Even if you assume your company doesn’t have an EAP, it’s worth asking anyway, as it may have instated new policies in response to the health crisis. For instance, Starbucks just recently announced they will cover 20 free therapy sessions for their workers.
How to get it: Talk to HR and check your company’s internal website to find out the details of your specific EAP and how to take advantage of it.
2. Talk to a therapist online
With social distancing practices in place, teletherapy options are more important than ever. If you currently have a therapist, you can likely arrange online sessions (video, audio, or text) with them, Flint says. If not, Talkspace is a mental health platform that connects people with trained therapists digitally.
Right now, the service is offering frontline medical workers a free month of online therapy via Talkspace’s Unlimited Messaging Plus plan, which includes unlimited text, video and audio messaging with a licensed therapist. If you're not a medical worker, you can sign up for a monthly plan, starting at $65 per week (though they're currently offering $100 off!).
How to get it: Sign up at Talkspace and use code 1004U to get $100 off. Medical workers need to enter their NPI (National Provider Identifier) and state of residence for verification to get their free month.
3. Join a support group through Real
Mental health care platform Real is offering one month of their digital therapy services for free, in order to provide support during the pandemic. You can participate in group discussions in their virtual group salons, have mental health check-ins with therapists, or “attend” other therapist-run digital events to help you feel more connected.
How to get it: See a list of services and activities and sign up at Real to the People.
4. Keep up with your recovery with Tempest
Tempest, the digital sobriety program by Holly Whitaker, set up a new Recovery at Home program to help people maintain or continue on their path to sobriety while socially isolating. It’s a four-week program with courses to help people understand how to manage anxiety, deal with isolation, access community and create new tools for recovery. Recovery at Home also provides access to a larger sober community for support and includes weekly discussions and Q&As with experts.
If you are working on the front lines of the coronavirus outbreak or have been impacted financially, you can apply for a scholarship to access the program for free. In addition, Tempest is making their in-person support group, Bridge Club, completely digital and free to everyone.
How to get it: Learn more about the free support group and apply for a scholarship to Recovery at Home here.
5. Practice mindfulness with Aura
Aura is an app to help you practice mindfulness, get better sleep and improve your emotional health. They’re offering a free three-month subscription which includes unlimited access to their mindfulness meditations, life coaching, inspiring stories, and music, all created by experts.
How to get it: Visit Aura’s site and use code FINDPEACE2020 at checkout to get three months for free (no credit card required).
6. Meditate with Simple Habit
Meditation is probably one of those things on your to-do list that you’ve always meant to try but haven’t quite started yet. Simple Habit is an app that aims to make a daily meditation practice easy by providing 5-, 10-, or 15-minute options. Simple Habit offers a free week, and then it’s $59.99 per year if you decide to keep it. However, in light of recent job losses, they are offering free premium memberships to all individuals in need starting now until the end of April 2020.
How to get it: Download Simple Habit and sign up for the free-week trial. If you can’t pay but want to keep the app, email them at firstname.lastname@example.org to make arrangements for a free or reduced rate.
7. Find calm with Dark Noise
Are you one of those people whose brain decides to kick into full anxiety mode as soon as you lay down to go to bed? Listening to ambient white noise can help calm your anxiety and soothe you to sleep. Charlie Chapman, founder of Dark Noise, an app that plays a variety of different ambient sounds, announced that in light of the pandemic, he’s releasing the beta version for free. The beta version includes daytime white noise options as well. “Maybe it’ll help people cope if they can simulate the sound of an office space or coffee shop while stuck in their homes,” he said.
8. Increase your sense of well-being with Headspace
Headspace is an app designed to teach you how to infuse more mindfulness into your everyday life. Being more mindful, even in small activities, can help you feel happier and less stressed. To help doctors, nurses, and other frontline professionals, Headspace is offering the service for free to them.
How to get it: Health-care professionals can learn how to get their free subscription on the Headspace website. Everyone else can download the Headspace app on the App Store for free, too, with in-app subscription options available.
9. Access student counseling services
If you have children at home, it’s likely that their mental health (and consequently, yours) isn't in the very best place right now. Thankfully, most school districts are providing some type of ongoing free mental health support for kids and their families. This may include 24-hour hotlines, free videos answering common questions, referrals to local providers, lists of helpful books, and online yoga or meditation sessions. In addition, many school counselors are still available via phone or email.
If you are a student, many colleges and universities offer free counseling services through their student health centers. Services range from group therapy to meditation classes to individual therapy. Even though campuses are closed during the pandemic, many institutions are keeping their health services open virtually or over the phone for students at this time.
How to get it: Check the website for your child's school or school district for local details, or call your student health center or check your university’s website for info.
10. Call a national mental health hotline
If you feel your mental health spiraling into bigger issues, it’s important to seek professional care from a physician or mental health professional, even if that’s just via phone or email right now, Flint says. Traumatic events can trigger some serious mental illnesses, including suicidal ideation, so don’t brush aside those feelings if you notice them in yourself or with a loved one, she stresses.
For general help with finding mental health resources, contact the National Alliance on Mental Illness at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) or email them at email@example.com. If you are in a crisis and need help immediately call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or chat online with a counselor for free.
Charlotte Hilton Andersen has been a health and fitness writer for 12 years and is the author of The Great Fitness Experiment. Her three great loves are her family, jelly beans, and true crime podcasts on the treadmill (but only the ones against the wall so no one can creep up on her).