Healing from Post-COVID PTSD: ‘I Needed Someone to Talk To’
Willette Moore felt like a fish out of water every time she went to take a breath.
It was the height of the coronavirus pandemic in April 2020, and she had just been diagnosed with COVID-19.
Hospitalized, Moore felt crushed by the isolation of her situation: alone in a room; the door shut; without family members allowed to be by her side – struggling to breathe. It was a feeling she had never experienced before. After three days, her care team decided it would be best for her to recover at home.
But after being discharged, Moore still had difficulty breathing, and the isolating experience in the hospital left her with post-traumatic stress.
She knew she needed to seek help for her mental health well-being.
Finding a Therapist
Moore isn’t alone: there’s an increased risk of mental health problems for patients hospitalized for COVID-19, especially for individuals like Moore who were in the hospital during the height of the pandemic. Research from General Hospital Psychiatry found those hospitalized for COVID during April 2020 to June 2020 experienced higher rates of post-traumatic stress, anxiety and loneliness.
Moore, a wife and mother of two, said she didn’t want to scare her tight-knit family with fears related to what she experienced after being in the hospital and still struggling to breathe at home. She tried using anxiety medication prescribed solely to help with the symptoms, but it alone was not helping.
“I was continuously anxious about that experience – it was just hard to live through,” Moore said. “It was hard on my children — seeing me go to the hospital like that. I needed someone who wasn’t in my family to talk to about it.”
A family member suggested that her insurance company would pay for therapy. Moore, a Blue Care Network member, called the customer service number on the back of her insurance card. She learned therapy services were covered with no copay. Using the member tools available in her online account, she found an in-network professional that she felt comfortable talking to.
She found therapeutic services needed to help her through her stress and anxiety, using virtual video visits for each session. Moore utilized a combination of prayer, meditation and tools provided by a therapist to assist with managing her symptoms on her own.
Breaking Cultural Stigmas
Moore shares her mental health journey story so others who face similar challenges, and have not considered therapy as an option, understand how it can be used to help them overcome difficult moments in their lives.
“There are going to be stressful situations. This is how you can go about dealing with it if you can’t manage dealing with it on your own,” Moore said. “In my community, we often rely on our faith and prayer to get through challenging situations. And that’s great. But it’s OK to seek professional help as well.”
In the African American community, mental health issues aren’t always discussed at home, Moore said. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in three Black adults who need mental health care receive it. Additionally, 63% of Black individuals view mental health conditions as a sign of personal weakness.
“There are hesitancies,” Moore said. “Will the therapist be culturally competent? Will I face conscious or unconscious bias? Will it be a safe space for me? These types of questions are in the forefront of your mind as it relates to mental health services.”
Had she struggled with severe anxiety earlier in her life, Moore said she likely would not have sought the help of a therapist due to being unfamiliar with the process and not fully understanding its benefits. Now, as an adult working in the social services field, with a Ph.D. in counseling studies, Moore said she’s seen the power of therapy in action. Barriers to mental health care for many in the African American community, like cost, availability, and cultural competency, have improved, Moore said.
“A lot has improved over the years but there is still work to be done,” Moore said.
Primary care providers are a good starting point for seeking help for mental health and can provide referrals to specialists. Local community and faith organizations may also have a list of mental health providers as well. For those with insurance, customer service representatives can help you understand your coverage and find a provider accessible to you.
Resources for Blue Cross Members
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network can help members find an in-network mental health professional by calling behavioral health access lines listed below:
PPO: Behavioral Health Access Line | 1-800-762-2382
- A free and confidential resource that’s just a call away when you need immediate support. Behavioral health professionals answer, 24/7.
HMO: Behavioral Health Access Line | 1-800-482-5982
- Connect with a behavioral health clinician if you need help finding a mental health or substance use provider.
- Behavioral health clinicians are available for routine assistance from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. For urgent concerns after hours, clinicians are also available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Learn more about mental health and options you have as a member to seek help at bcbsm.com/mentalhealth.
More from MIBluesPerspectives:
- ‘A Strong Thing to Do’: Asking for Help in a Crisis
- Find the Right Mental Health Provider for You
- Difference Between Therapists, Psychologists and Psychiatrists
Main photo credit: Getty Images