Covid-19 is doing serious damage to public health, more than the millions of infections. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey psychological trauma in the US is rising with 45 percent of adults admitting their mental health has been affected. And the problem goes beyond paralyzing fear and anxiety over getting sick with the virus or missing work because of it.
A Wake Up Call
The shocking suicide of Dr. Lorna Breen, the ER Director of New York-Presbyterian Hospital on April 26, 2020, seems like the tip of the iceberg. The 40-something doctor, gifted and confident, felt helpless as the virus took New York by storm. Her unit became witness to an uphill battle that saw more and more people dying every day.
Dr. Breen was headstrong. Wanting to help more, she studied both internal and emergency medicine after medical school. Once, she struggled in finishing a marathon due to shortness of breath. But she finished it anyway, heading directly to a hospital afterward.
The high-achieving ER doctor’s suicide is a wake up call.
Unfortunately, mental health may not be getting as much attention as it should receive. Congress may have passed trillions of dollars for emergency funding for the pandemic. But only a small portion has been allotted to issues in mental health.
When so much misery is in the news, it’s understandably easy to get lost in it all. Even when you feel like you’ve always had a handle on your mental health, the seclusion or isolation due to lockdowns and perhaps job loss could take a toll. And you may find yourself helpless, confused and much like the rest of the population, scared.
In such an extraordinary time, coping with the unprecedented stress and anxiety is as crucial as following health protocols.
Taking Care of Yourself
A big adjustment needs support, and you will have access to plenty.
Currently, there are federal helplines and health centers that can attend to you online and via phone. Keep in touch with them when negative thoughts are too strong to manage on your own.
Additionally, stay active physically and socially. Try to get in half an hour’s worth of exercise in your apartment. Some form of fitness routine can help reduce stress. If you’re not much into the usual exercise, try backyard or urban gardening. It’s a good way to boost your immune system, lower stress levels and to find a sense of purpose.
Yes, practice social distancing, but that only means physically not socially. You don’t have to leave the house to share a conversation with a family member or a long-lost friend. Tracking people on Facebook could give you a boost.
Maintaining a strong support system is vital in this hour of need. Instead of tracking the news all the time, try a new hobby that relaxes the mind. For instance, you can knit or learn to play a musical instrument.
Seek Professional Help
If the hotlines and at-home approaches are not as effective as you think, maybe it’s time to reach out to a psychotherapist. A doctor may not only provide you with a new perspective to your situation, but also prescribe you with the right medication, like ketamine. The treatment of depression using ketamine has helped reduced suicidal tendencies and eased suicidal thoughts in some patients. The drug that was once used as an anesthetic on many battlefields and in many operating rooms has become a valuable tool in fighting depression.
A study published in The American Journal of Psychiatry revealed tremendous success rates for ketamine-induced patients. Not only has the drug greatly reduced suicidal thoughts, but it has also done so quickly. Reason enough for many ketamine clinics to have sprouted all over America.
During therapy, your doctor can identify your stressors and talk you through your condition. Some types of therapy you may be presented with are cognitive behavioral therapy and psychodynamic therapy. Sessions may be done individually or with the family.
Unmet mental health needs amid a pandemic could, in the long run, cause more harm than the virus itself. As depression, anxiety and fear spread through America, it is important to know that you are not alone in what you’re going through. Everyone is on this unprecedented, difficult journey; you may be facing tougher challenges than some or you may know someone who is far worse.
The bottom line is help is within reach. Don’t go it alone. Take care of your mind and body. Reach out to friends and family. Access available support from the government or nonprofits. And you will strengthen your ability to cope with the effects of the pandemic.