Feeling like you need a mental health day but (1) can't find a therapist, (2) can't afford a therapist, or (3) can't travel to one?
Enter telemental health services. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) describes telemental health or online therapy as psychological counselling and support over the internet, through e-mails, video conferences, online chat, or phone calls.
It sounds ideal, especially for the web-savvy younger generation comfortable with the internet, and guess what? It's finally in the Philippines.
The first telemental health service in the country was recently launched by Mindcare Club, a network of mental health counselors and spaces in the Philippines. The service finally gives access to a broader range of safe and cost-effective mental health treatments to more Filipinos.
The Mindcare Club's telemental health service features video conferences and online chats in a safe and secure website-based platform, said Brian Tenorio, the CEO of Mindcare Club.
"There's a whole new generation of young people who need mental health access, who are more comfortable online and do not have enough funds to travel," Tenorio told GMA News Online.
This was also observed by Dr, Lou Querubin, the former president of the Philippine Psychiatric Association, who said that mental health services are not readily accessible in the country.
"Access is also adversely affected by maldistribution of supply as there is a concentration of providers in Metro Manila and other key cities in the country leaving a huge marginalized population that we [mental health providers] need to reach out to," Querubin said, in a statement.
Tenorio said that MindCare Club's telemental services can greatly help in addressing that need, while helping others — especially those living in the provinces — save on time, money, and travel costs.
While typical sessions with senior psychiatrists can cost P3000 per hour or more, the Mindcare Club said that most its sessions can range from P800 to P2500 per hour. All one has to do is book a slot by joining its mailing list.
Tenorio also noted that many Filipinos looking for mental help often immediately turn to psychiatrists, which may not be necessary. He explained that there were some mental health-related problems that could be addressed by other therapists such as counselors, doctors with mental training and psychologists.
While psychiatrists and doctors can prescribe medications, therapists can use other methods such as "talk therapy."
With the country's first telemental service, clients are assessed by medical triage officers who refer them to the therapist they need.
Asked about how they would deal with poor wifi in far-flung areas, Tenorio answered that their system worked on "thin internet."
"Hindi siya parang Instagram videos na may graphics. [Our platform uses] basic video. In fact, it's the same system that NASA uses for telemedicine in the United States," he said.
He added that the system was compliant with U.S' Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) law, and data privacy laws in the Philippines.
The Mindcare Club, in a statement, said that using technology in mental health treatment can also help in reducing the stigma in the country.
The next time you're feeling like you need some mental health tending, you know where to go. — LA, GMA News