New York City therapists relocating out east, advances in telemedicine and additional Stony Brook University psychiatry residents have improved the landscape of mental health services on the Twin Forks during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Those changes may permanently strengthen the web of counselors, psychologists and psychiatrists working on the East End even as the threat of the virus ebbs.
Part of the change was born of necessity. A common thread among all providers Newsday spoke to is that clients across the socioeconomic spectrum are more in need of their services than ever.
“I can tell you this, every single person I know in this field is just inundated with people who are in different states of distress, stress and panic,” said Robby Stein, a Sag Harbor psychologist. “And within my own practice … there’s been an increase in depression, suicidal ideation and a need for really outside stimulation that doesn’t exist.”
The number of people reporting symptoms of anxiety and depression has remained high across the country even as restrictions are lifting and fewer people are dying from virus-related complications. The number of adult Americans reporting anxiety was around 26% in mid-June, with 21.6% reporting symptoms of depression, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey. Those numbers stood at 8.1% and 6.5%, respectively, in 2019, according to the survey. The demand for mental health services has risen everywhere, including the East End.
For private-pay therapists serving the area’s wealthier residents, client stressors included being forced to adapt to remote office work while their children were isolated from their peers and relocating from New York City in search of fewer crowds and more space.
Professional supply meeting client demand
Karin Yapalater, a counselor with an office on Park Avenue and in Bridgehampton, sought refuge on the East End during the pandemic as many others did. She said she has been very busy during the pandemic in part because she offers nature-based therapy that can involve horses. Outdoor sessions were a respite for clients suddenly hunkered down on the East End with their families, Yapalater said.
“When people were living in such close quarters together, getting outside and looking and talking and being able to observe horses and interact with horses, just became such a relief for them,” she said. “And it was a safe way to engage in therapy.”
What to know
- Virtual mental health care has improved access for all, from private-pay clients to those seeking care through social service agencies such as Family Service League.
- Outpatient psychiatric telehealth calls rose from a few hundred per month to more than 20,000 per month during the height of the pandemic, said Kristie Golden, associate director of operations at Stony Brook Medicine.
- Stony Brook Southampton Hospital has implemented emergency telepsychiatry services, eliminating the need for someone experiencing a psychiatric crisis on the South Fork to travel to the main hospital for emergency care.
- The Stony Brook health care system saw an estimated 15%…