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Advice from a Medical Director: Six ways to start a conversation about your mental health

COVID-19 is having an indirect but profound impact on people’s mental health. Social isolation, health concerns, financial uncertainty and an endless stream of bad news are leading to increased levels of anxiety, depression, stress and post-traumatic stress disorder around the globe. Know that you’re not alone. And know that help is available. Consider this advice from Dr Nairah Rasul-Syed, vHealth Medical Director and Family Medicine Consultant. To get medical support today, book an appointment with vHealth*.1,2,3

Talk with your employer4,5

Employers are increasingly offering mental health support, not just as a bolt-on benefit or service but as an integral part of your policy cover. Your manager or HR department can connect you with available support and may be able to provide other resources. Here’s how to start a conversation.6

1.       Decide who to talk to. Consider who in your organisation would be the most helpful. This might be your boss or line manager, a mental health first aid employee liaison, an HR representative, or a trusted co-worker.

2.       Consider your situation. Do you simply need to ask for personal day or two so you can clear your head? Or do you need someone to help you figure out where to turn for help and how to go about it? Approach the conversation with a goal in mind and read up on your policy cover and benefits to find out about the support available to you.

3.       Choose the right time and place. This is an important meeting. Try to schedule it in advance, and meet in a setting where you won’t be rushed or interrupted.

Talk with a doctor

Whether you make an appointment with your family doctor or choose to connect digitally with a qualified doctor via a virtual service such as vHealth*, here’s how to approach the conversation.7,8

1.       Approach the visit like any other doctor appointment. Have your insurance card and list of your current medications handy. Check your confirmation email for key information. Make a list of questions you want to ask. Prepare to wait a few minutes if your doctor is running late.

2.       Be prepared, open and honest. Your medical consultations are confidential. To give your doctor the best chance to give you the most appropriate support, be honest about your situation. Keep notes about your circumstances, experiences and emotions handy. Expect your doctor to ask about your medical history and physical health, as well as questions about changes to various aspects of your life, from sleep and your appetite, to your enjoyment of life and concentration levels.

3.       Find a quiet, well-lit place for the visit. Choose a location where you are relaxed and free from distractions. If you’re having a video appointment, turn the lights up so your doctor can see you. Do a test run with your camera and microphone. Be sure your battery is charged.

*Check your policy document or ask your employer to find out if you’re eligible for vHealth.

How vHealth can help*

Help for stress, anxiety, burnout and depression is at your fingertips — whether you have a mobile, tablet or laptop. Here’s how Rita, a 27-year-old Aetna International member living in Dubai, got the support she needed.**

Rita has been experiencing stress-related insomnia for more than a month.

She talks with a work colleague, who tells her how Aetna’s vHealth service helped him. The colleague also recommends Pzizz and Wysa — specialist sleep and mental health apps available to Aetna members.

Rita searches the Google Play store for “vHealth (Dubai),” and installs the vHealth app.

She opens the app and registers using an access code from her employer.

Rita selects an appointment time, and submits her request.

The vHealth service sends Rita an email confirmation of her appointment.

At the appointed time and date, Dr Sam Garwood calls Rita to discuss her health concerns.

Dr Garwood makes some recommendations, including short-term medication and changes to Rita’s nightly wind-down routine, including introducing some meditation at bedtime.

Rita logs in to the Health Hub. She navigates to the ‘Aetna Well-being’ section and goes to ‘Member offers’ where she downloads an annual pass to the Pzizz app at a discounted rate.

She makes listening to the science-based psychoacoustic sounds part of her nightly routine.

She also downloads Wysa for free, and finds relief and support via the anonymous, confidential chatbot and Human Coach.  

She begins sleeping better at night and prepares for a follow-up consultation with Dr Garwood to review her situation and medication.

Do you need help?

If your mental health has been affected by COVID-19, know that you’re not alone. Rather than suffer in silence, reach out to those who can help.

As an Aetna International member, you can call us using the number on the back of your member ID card. Log in to the Health Hub, your secure member website, to find out more about vHealth*, to contact the Aetna CARE team to ask health care questions or to search our directory of in-network hospitals or clinics. Download the vHealth by Aetna app***. In Dubai? Download the vHealth (Dubai) app, contact the free toll  number on 8000 35704672 or email support@vhealth.co.ae***. In Thailand? Download the vHealth (Thailand) app***. To download Wysa for free or take advantage of member discounts, including apps like Pzizz, log in to the Health Hub and search ‘Aetna Well-being for the Mind’. For more information about your health care benefits, contact your plan sponsor.

You’re not alone. Getting help today makes for a better tomorrow.

*For those eligible | **Specific processes vary by country | ***All vHealth apps can also be downloaded from the App Store.

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