BATON ROUGE, La. – The COVID-19 pandemic was not just a public health crisis – it also triggered a steep increase in mental health needs. According to the World Health Organization, from 2020-2021 there was a 25% worldwide increase in the number of people experiencing depression and anxiety. In the U.S., a 2021 Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that four in 10 adults reported struggling with these conditions, up from one in 10 adults in 2019. And, drug abuse has reached record levels since 2020.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana reminds Louisianians that it’s important to regularly check in with yourself about how you’re feeling and how well you are handling any challenging life situations.
“While it’s always important to check in on your mental health, it’s become even more important in the past two years,” said Dr. Jeremy Wigginton, Blue Cross medical director. “Our mental health affects what we think and how we feel, making it an important piece of our overall health and well-being.”
Mental health affects physical health, Dr. Wigginton said. “When people are dealing with stress, anxiety or depression, they often have symptoms like headaches, stomach issues or sleep disruption. Living with that for a long period of time can affect your body’s ability to fight off infections. It can also make any long-term health conditions you have worse. That’s why it’s important to regularly check in on how you’re doing. And, don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it.”
Dr. Wigginton recommends making mental health discussions a regular part of checkups with your health care provider. “You ask your provider to check your blood pressure and blood sugar numbers so you can see how you’re doing and catch any problems early – do the same thing for your mental health,” Dr. Wigginton said. “Let your provider know if you’re going through any big life changes or difficulties. If you’re overwhelmed or you’re struggling just to get through your daily activities, tell your provider. Your provider is there to help you be as healthy as possible and can work with you on steps to take or prescribe medication if that’s appropriate for your situation.”
Follow Blue Cross on social media @BCBSLA throughout May to see original graphic designs, videos and other messages sharing raising awareness of mental health and sharing resources for treatment and support. Download, share or post these messages on your personal social media with the hashtag #CheckIn and inspire your loved ones to consider their mental health and reach out if they need help. Blue Cross posts regularly on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and TikTok.
Visit the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana YouTube channel to see short videos on mental health and other wellness topics. Subscribe to know when new videos are added.
“Let’s Ride” Promotion with Blue Bikes
One great way to lower feelings of anxiety and depression is to get healthy, aerobic exercise, Dr. Wigginton said. “Exercise increases blood flow in the brain and causes your body to release hormones that boost positive feelings,” he said. “Getting exercise also increases your energy levels so you feel more confident and motivated to deal with challenges.”
To raise awareness of mental health and give opportunities for healthy exercise, Blue Cross has partnered with Blue Krewe, the nonprofit operator of Blue Bikes in New Orleans, to sponsor a free ride promotion during May.
Riders can use the code LetsRide to get one free, 30-minute Blue Bikes ride. The ride can be a chance to get some physical activity, gather with friends or have transportation to health care appointments. Hometown Productions has produced a video news release about the Let’s Ride promotion with more information (8:20).
How to ride:
1. Download the Blue Bikes NOLA app, which is available in the App Store and Google Play.
2. To redeem your promo code and start your free ride, open your Blue Bikes NOLA app and tap on your name in the upper-left corner. This will pull up a sidebar of account options. Tap on "promo codes," which will take you to the code redemption screen.
3. Enter the promo code LetsRide in the field provided and tap "submit." This will give a free, 30-minute ride.
Each individual rider can only use this code one time through Tuesday, May 31. The Blue Bikes free ride codes are only valid for trips within the bikeshare program’s service area.
Show us how you used the LetsRide code by posting photos on your personal social media, tagging Blue Bikes (@BlueBikesNOLA) and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana (@BCBSLA), using the hashtags #CheckIn and #LetsRide.
Riders will be charged the standard Blue Bikes rate of 15 cents per minute plus a $1 unlocking fee for any time they ride outside of the free 30 minutes. All other standard Blue Bikes fees such as out-of-hub convenience charge and out-of-service-area fee apply.
Mental Health Resources
Blue Cross has several programs and services to help members stay well and get help for their mental health needs.
• Health Coaching: Blue Cross has an in-house care team who support members dealing with long-term health needs, serious illnesses or acute injuries. Blue Cross health coaches work with members to find social service community organizations and resources close to them, connect with behavioral health providers in their network or build up skills to be resilient in difficult situations. To learn more about Care Management programs and services or to sign up for health coaching, visit www.bcbsla.com/Stronger. Members do not pay anything to work with a health coach.
• Online Behavioral Health Visits: Blue Cross members can use BlueCare to have online visits with psychology or psychiatry providers who are trained and certified in telehealth care. BlueCare behavioral health providers can help with anxiety, depression, stress, grief, substance abuse, coping with life transitions, couples counseling and more. Create a BlueCare account at www.BlueCareLA.com or with the BlueCare (one word) mobile app for Apple and Android devices. Then, simply log in and schedule a behavioral health appointment. Blue Cross also has network behavioral health providers who treat patients through telehealth. Ask your provider about options or check the online directory to find an in-network behavioral health provider near you.
• Facebook Live Broadcasts: During May, Blue Cross will host Facebook Live educational events in which members of the insurer’s care team will share tips for mental health awareness, finding healthy ways to deal with stress and avoiding social isolation. Check Blue Cross’ Facebook page to see dates for upcoming sessions. You can RSVP and share these events from your personal social media to invite friends and family.
About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana is committed to our mission to improve the health and lives of Louisianians. Founded in New Orleans in 1934, we are a tax-paying nonprofit health insurer with offices in every major region to serve our customers. We have been recognized for the past three years as an honoree of The Civic 50, named by Points of Light as one of the 50 most community-minded companies in the United States.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. We are a private mutual company, owned by our policyholders, with an independent Louisiana Board of Directors and no shareholders. We invite all Louisianians to visit our website at www.bcbsla.com or talk to us on social media.