It’s no secret that the pandemic has improved American’s access to healthcare. Turns out, enabling patients to speak to their providers from home didn’t just help prevent the spread of Covid-19, it also increased access to high-quality care—especially in rural areas—while decreasing healthcare costs.
Thanks to unprecedented demand, Americans learned firsthand how virtual care can support patients, reimburse providers, and remove barriers to care—especially when it comes to mental health.
But for men, for whom convenience and stigma have long been significant barriers to mental health, the adoption of virtual care may be exceptionally significant.
Embracing Virtual Care in Mental Health
For decades, many mental health professionals avoided adopting virtual care: “It just wasn’t the way therapy was done,” remarks Anette E. Cohen, LMFT. But since Covid, therapists like Cohen have learned to incorporate virtual care fully into their practice, and to their surprise—it hasn’t negatively impacted the quality of care.
In fact, a study from the American Journal of Psychiatry found that outcomes in remote treatment were the same as in-person treatment, demonstrating that effective, high-quality mental health care can be achieved through virtual appointments.
Still, some practitioners find the limitations of virtual care challenging: “When I speak to a patient over the phone, I’m unable to capture their body language signals, making it difficult for me to pick up on their non-verbal cues,” says Emily De La Rosa, PhD, LCSW.
Others believe the advantages of virtual care far outweigh the challenges: patients who are unable to physically travel to the office no longer face that obstacle when it comes to finding care:
“A session that used to take three hours of a patient’s time including travel now takes exactly the amount of time dedicated to a session, with maybe a minute or two deducted to log onto Zoom,” says Allan Pleaner, MFT and founder of the Couples Training Institute.
And for patients—particularly men—who for far too long faced stigma when seeking mental health care, speaking to a therapist from the comfort of their home may be a complete game changer.
The Gender Divide in Mental Health
Our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Myles Spar, recalls the moment when his ill father asked him to step up to be “the man” of his family—at the time, Dr. Spar was just thirteen years old.
Dr. Spar’s experience is not uncommon. In the US, many men are taught to take on providing roles from a young age, that manhood is defined by silence and strength, and that asking for help is a sign of weakness. This mindset follows most men for the majority of their lives, informing how they seek—and don’t seek—healthcare.
Today, men still die earlier than women, and in most cases the causes of these early deaths are preventable.
Part of this trend is due to the fact that men simply avoid going to the doctor more than women. And this is doubly true when it comes to mental health.
According to recent data, men are significantly less likely to seek help for all mental-health problems, especially depression, likely contributing to the fact that men die by suicide three times more often than women in the US.
So, could an increase in virtual mental health care improve men’s health—and ultimately save lives?
Improving Men’s Mental Health with Virtual Care
A Cleveland Clinic survey from 2019 found that 72% of men would rather do household chores than go to the doctor—yes, healthcare avoidance in men runs so deep that they’d rather scrub toilets than seek help.
But another key finding of the study showed that 61% of men said that they would be more likely to seek care if the process was more convenient. Dr. Eric Klein of the Cleveland Clinic posited that by offering virtual visits, the healthcare industry could finally get rid of the stigma that a man isn’t allowed to admit that something is wrong, and ultimately save men's lives.
Two years after the study was published, we’re living in that new reality. With virtual care now a requisite for all providers, we’ve witnessed a veritable boom in telehealth and virtual therapy.
Men who may have previously felt uncomfortable traveling to a therapist in person can now get the help they need while sitting in bed or on their own sofa.
And with more men getting access to therapy, the less stigma they feel about doing it:
“I’m seeing a lot of men get into therapy because their friend has recommended it,” says Pleaner. “Before it was a taboo thing that people did in secret, but now, therapy is a cool, healthy, and wholesome thing that people talk about with their friends—it’s become a legitimate and normalized way to deal with the stress, deprivation, and hardship of the pandemic.”
According to the numbers, that’s a big game changer when it comes to improving men’s mental and physical health.
With Vault, it’s never too late to get the care you need. If you’re looking for flexible and convenient ways to support your physical and mental health, book an online visit with Vault today.