“Amid the heightened uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, mental well-being is more important than ever,” said Mayor Jim Kenney. COVID-19 induced stress is compounded by the fact that, according to the American Psychiatric Association, LGBTQ people are more than twice as likely to have a mental health disorder than the general population. To meet this need, the city of Philadelphia and Independence Blue Cross (IBX) collaborated to sponsor #MindPHL Together, a campaign to raise awareness around mental health and to provide the public with mental health resources. 

The campaign aims to help the public come to a better understanding of mental health and well-being. It also seeks to alleviate the stigma on those who seek help. In fact, #MindPHL encourages Philadelphians to be self-aware about their own mental health needs and to seek help. 

Vice President of Medical Affairs for Independence Blue Cross Dr. Ginny Calega said #MindPHL Together began as a “public-private collaboration.” “Following the release of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association’s (BCBSA) Health of America report about millennial health and the national Millennial Health Forum co-hosted by Independence and BCBSA in Philadelphia last year,” said Dr. Calega, “Independence had created a public awareness campaign about mental health this spring. It was set to launch this new campaign when the pandemic hit.  So, it was an easy ‘yes’ when representatives from the City of Philadelphia asked our CEO, Dan Hilferty, if Independence might be interested in working together on a mental health campaign in the face of the pandemic. The result of this collaboration, the #MindPHL Together campaign, was launched on May 4 at the start of Mental Health Awareness Month.”

“During this unprecedented time,” said Mayor Kenney, “many of us are experiencing loss, anxiety, stress, or overwhelming sadness. I want to remind Philadelphians to be mindful, know you are not alone, and that it’s okay to seek help for these and other symptoms.” According to the American Psychiatric Association, LGBTQ people are 2.5 times more likely than the general population to experience anxiety, depression, and substance misuse issues. Additionally, a study by Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago states that LGBTQ youth are more than 120% more likely to experience homelessness. Homelessness during a time of COVID-19 presents many complications as well, including a lack of access to healthcare, let alone mental healthcare. It stands to reason, then, that the LGBTQ community is particularly hard hit by COVID-19 induced or exacerbated mental health disorders. 

Concerning LGBTQ mental health issues, Dr. Calega said that the “campaign has strived to develop a communications plan that will reach a wide audience that includes the LGBTQ community.” There are, however, no LGBTQ-specific resources listed on the campaign’s website. But LGBTQ people can benefit from the city and IBX’s initiative to destigmatize mental health or from the more general resources listed on the site. Omoiye Kinney, communications director from Philadelphia’s Office of Behavioral Health and Disability Services (DBHIBS), said that the city had released a resource guide for the city’s LGBTQ community. “In addition,” said Kinney, “DBHIBS is currently working to transition its internal LGBT+ competence trainings to a remote platform and to improve the quality of care we fund for the LGBT+ community.” Beyond the city’s resources, the Mazzoni Center currently offers remote outpatient counseling and recovery services for LGBTQ people. 

“Beyond the physical impacts of COVID-19,” finished Dr. Calega, “we know that so many are experiencing mental health effects — caused by loss, stress, isolation, and financial hardship. We can’t let the mental health impacts of COVID spread silently like the disease itself.” 

To get LGBTQ-specific mental health help, contact the Mazzoni Center at 215-563-0652, ext. 582. Or, visit their website at www.mazzonicenter.org/counseling-and-recovery-services

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