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Integrated Behavioral Health in Primary Care: Finding Relief and Recovery During a Pandemic

The integration of behavioral health services into primary care may seem like old news, but integration of care has never been more needed. This is due to the potential behavioral health impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic and the fact that most people will seek out treatment for behavioral health symptoms from their primary care provider. The good news is, with most primary care providers now offering telehealth appointments, talking to a doctor may seem easier than it has been in the past.  

Why do people need behavioral health more during a pandemic?  

Behavioral health outcomes from COVID-19 for most people are related to experiences of social isolation, fears of the unknown around further restrictions and economic losses, and stress and pressure related to the balance of childcare and work. However, this may change as COVID-19 cases increase or decrease, specific outbreaks are identified and/or socio-economic issues take hold as a result of COVID-19.  

Mapping the phases of reactions and behavioral health symptoms in disasters can assist patients in validating the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on overall health and well-being. Below is a visual created by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to illustrate these phases. 


The most challenging phase is the Disillusionment Phase, which occurs six to nine months after the onset of a disaster or major crisis. This phase is marked by symptoms of forgetfulness, anger, distraction, depression and anxiety. These are all normal reactions during a natural disaster but can be difficult to navigate. These reactions may create physical and mental health concerns that lead to sleep disturbance, fluctuation in mood, substance use and/or changes to diet and exercise patterns. Primary care providers can reassure patients that they are not alone and behavioral health treatment options can assist them in getting relief and finding recovery.  

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