Teen girl using mobile phoneIf you feel more anxious and stressed than usual, you’re not alone. The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged us in new and different ways, and many of us are being pushed to our limits.

In fact, the Washington State Department of Health estimates that 3 million Washingtonians will experience clinically significant behavioral health symptoms in the next two-to-five months. In a state with a population of 7.7 million, that’s an alarmingly high percentage.

“The pandemic is impacting everybody, and anxiety levels are over the top,” said Tamara Sheehan, regional director of behavioral health for Providence Health Care.

A new digital mental health resource is helping Providence caregivers offer assistance more quickly to patients needing help. 

SilverCloud, made possible by a donation from Avista Foundation to Providence Inland Northwest Foundation, is a secure online platform that can be accessed via phone, tablet or computer. It offers support to those waiting for behavioral health care, as well as those currently in treatment who need extra support between appointments. It also provides patients valuable tools that they can use even after discharge.

Sheehan explains that Silver Cloud offers a number of interactive modules that cover stress, anxiety, depression, sleep issues and more. “It does a great job of augmenting care we’re already providing,” said Sheehan. The program was piloted in Spokane this year and is expected to be deployed throughout Providence in 2021.

People typically sign up for SilverCloud online and complete a screening. They are then assigned a coach, who can offer information about appropriate services depending on risk level. “Patients can go in on their own and choose what they want to work on, but they are typically directed by a therapist,” said Sheehan.

SilverCloud is being integrated into a number of existing Providence behavioral health programs, including the adult in-patient unit at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center and RISE – an intensive day-treatment program for adolescents and adults at Providence Holy Family Hospital Medical Building. RISE, which stands for resources, insight, support and empowerment – is ideal for those who need a higher level of care than provided in a traditional outpatient setting, but who do not require psychiatric hospitalization.

The app is also being offered to participants in Providence medical residency programs. “Health care professionals and especially physician residents, are at very high risk for anxiety and depression. There aren’t a lot of services they feel comfortable using, due to confidentiality concerns,” said Sheehan. The new technology enables them to get the help they need while remaining anonymous.

Sheehan acknowledges that it’s challenging to implement new things during a pandemic, but says that the need is greater than ever. “This is just one new tool that can help us get people the treatment they need.” 

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