COVID-19 affecting your mood? One health insurer fights back

Published May 14, 2020

Meeting mental health needs. For the Health of America.SM

Physical distancing is an important way to help protect yourself and others from COVID-19 and slow the spread of the virus. Depending on your living situation and where you are in the country, that may include staying at home for all but essential errands, maintaining six feet from others, limiting social gatherings or even complete isolation from others.

Whatever it looks like to you, chances are that it's taken a toll on your mental health. The disruption to daily routines, worry about loves ones, uncertainty about the future and hyper-vigilance can be mentally and emotionally exhausting. For many, it can also lead to or exacerbate depression, anxiety, substance use disorder and other behavioral health issues.

Independence Blue Cross tackles mental health and well-being

To help its members and community through these challenging times, Independence Blue Cross (Independence BC) is addressing behavioral health access, stigma and support. Taking on a leadership role in the Philadelphia region, Independence BC is producing public service announcements (PSAs), launching an awareness campaign with the City of Philadelphia, and providing its members with technology to get care and peace of mind at home.

"A calming, reassuring message"

Just four days after Philadelphia announced its first case of coronavirus, Independence BC launched a multimedia public service campaign featuring CEO Dan Hilferty. The campaign was created to amplify the message of public officials and health experts, as well as reassure Philadelphians, "We're in this together."

"As we find our way through the COVID-19 outbreak, it's vital we retain our mental health," says Hilferty in the second announcement of the series. He then outlines six easy steps we can all take to help manage feelings of anxiety, loneliness, overwhelm and boredom, before signing off: "Together, we will beat COVID-19."

"I've never seen anything like the reception the PSAs are getting," says Donna Farrell, Independence BC's vice president of Corporate Communications. At a time when there's a lot of fear and misinformation circulating about the virus, she says, "They offer a calming, reassuring message."

Being #mindPHL

Building on the work of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Health of America Report® on millennial health and the national Millennial Health Forum, co-hosted by Independence BC and the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) in Philadelphia last year, Independence BC was planning to launch a mental health public awareness campaign this spring. So it was an easy “yes” when representatives from the City of Philadelphia asked Hilferty if Independence BC might be interested in collaborating 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. The comprehensive campaign aims to:

  • Improve community understanding of mental health and well-being
  • Reduce the stigma associated with needing mental health support
  • Encourage Philadelphians to seek help for themselves and others
  • Offer vital support for those impacted by mental health challenges

The campaign site—which Independence BC, the city government and other pillars of the Philadelphia community are heavily promoting across social media channels—helps connect users to critical support for their mental health, including a crisis hotline and free, 24/7 emotional well-being support.

Virtual support

Independence BC is the first insurer to offer its members access to a new COVID-19 Preparedness Tool.* The tool, updated daily, walks users through how to prevent and screen for COVID-19, take care of loved ones with the illness and manage their well-being at home. This includes not only stress-reduction techniques, but also self-care practices, exercise techniques, and support for those working from home and/or homeschooling. Delivered through an app, online or even on a home television, the information is designed and delivered in a way that gives users a sense of control in the midst of crisis.

Meditation and mindfulness

To further its commitment to mental well-being, Independence BC is also offering its members free, 60-day premium access to Stop, Breathe & Think. This app, developed for kids, teen and young adults but usable by anyone, teaches mindfulness and meditation with daily check-ins, guided practice and activities. Meditation has been clinically proven to reduce stress, anxiety and other difficult feelings.

Independence BC is also helping members with anxiety and stress related to the COVID-19 pandemic by offering telemedicine coverage for behavioral health, online cognitive behavior therapy modules, and stress reduction and improved sleep modules.

*The COVID-19 Preparedness Tool was created by Quil, a digital health company launched by Independence BC and Comcast. Learn how Quil helps patients through their care journeys. 

Independence Blue Cross is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, an association of independent, locally operated Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies. Stop, Breathe & Think is owned and developed by MyLife™, Inc. To discover more ways Independence Blue Cross is helping its members through the COVID-19 crisis, visit them here.

The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association is an association of 35 independent, locally operated Blue Cross and/or Blue Shield companies.