Online Psychotherapy Might Be Key to Sanity Amid COVID-19

The ongoing global quarantine is a necessary measure for curtailing the spread of the coronavirus epidemic that caught everyone off guard in the beginning of the year. Yet, as we protect ourselves from catching the deadly respiratory disease by hiding out at home, we subject ourselves to all sorts of mental strains that can result in a host of serious psychological conditions.

Medical professionals, governments and entrepreneurs see the threat. The abrupt cancelation of people’s social lives is having a negative impact on workers’ morale, overall motivation and quickly snowballs into a depression. At a time when personal meetings are discouraged, and many people are unable to find help, online psychotherapy has emerged as a phenomenon that could not only help us survive the quarantine but also democratize psychotherapy forever. 

According to the website of the Hubei Provincial People’s Government, the Hubei Provincial Office for Novel Coronavirus Infection Prevention and Control recently issued the “Hubei Province Novel Coronavirus Outbreak Psychological Relief Program,” targeting infected patients and their families, family members of the deceased, front-line staff and other key demographics to provide them with psychological counseling.

“All localities should establish cooperation mechanisms for mental health medical institutions, social psychological service institutions, school psychological counseling centers, social work service agencies, and psychological service volunteer organizations to form a continuous service chain and provide psychological services for key populations through psychological lectures, group counseling, individual counseling, psychological hotlines and online platforms provide,” the program outline reads.

However, it is not only people who’ve been through the horrors of fighting for their lives after catching COVID-19 that are vulnerable. Students and education professionals are known to have been hit especially hard, with most of the world, it seems, transferring to online education within the past two months, an unprecedented experiment. Alongside online classes and lectures, universities and schools throughout China are currently also offering online counseling services for their students and employees. Here is an excerpt from the announcement posted on the official website of Chuzhou University, a mid-size undergraduate college in China’s Anhui Province that is representative of measures taken by other educational institutions:

“Novel coronavirus infection emergency guidelines for psychological crisis intervention were launched in order to implement the relevant requirements of the Ministry of Education and the Provincial Department of education and carry out epidemic prevention and control work. The mental health consultation center of our university has been conducting online psychological counseling for all teachers and students since January 31, in order to prevent and control the epidemic situation. Teachers and students who have psychological pressure and need psychological counseling services will be provided help directly.”

Online counseling is also being provided by certain living communities to their residents. According to Qingdao Evening News, one residential community in the city of Qingdao has launched an online psychological counseling program. The community’s counselor is a medical professional volunteer recruited by the community, who uses their professional knowledge to provide residents with psychological counseling services through WeChat.

Several communities in Beijing, like Meiyuan Community in the capital’s Haidian district, have also implemented similar measures. In order to psychologically counsel the residents and appease their emotions, the community uses WeChat groups to organize volunteers and connect them to those in need.

Shanghai took things to the next level, launching a city-wide platform that will provide people with 24-hour online mental health support. The platform can be accessed through the “Shanghai Health Cloud” app or through the official WeChat account of the local media outlet Shanghai City (上海发布).

wIn fact, WeChat itself has been at the forefront of the online medicine or telemedicine movement with its “Health” feature. The in-app platform allows users to book appointments and request online consultations with doctors, including mental health professionals. It has also been instrumental in providing accurate and up-to-date information on the spread of the coronavirus globally, and the situation in China, making it the perfect one-stop solution for medical help seekers stuck in quarantine.