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Take your own advice: It’s time to take mental health off the backburner

Tuesday, April 21, 2020   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Leah Konieczka
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Submitted By Jonathan Horey, MD on behalf of Active Recovery TMS

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected all of us in one way or another, but the effects of this disease have put an especially heavy load on our fellow healthcare workers. Not surprisingly, early studies coming out of China suggest that the burden of anxiety, depression and acute stress reactions have increased dramatically among healthcare workers in that country[1]. There is no doubt, then, that affordable mental healthcare will be a crucial part of the recovery process.

One of my concerns with my own patients, as well as friends and family members who are directly involved in treating COVID-19 patients, is that it is difficult for many of them to even think about attending to their mental health. This is as a part of the stress reaction that accompanies threatening situations. We tend to focus on the threat at hand at the expense of other important things in our lives. This is a useful adaptation when the threat is acute and relatively short-lived. Unfortunately, while the COVID-19 pandemic is acute, it is not going away anytime soon. This means that others are likely going to have to help our frontline healthcare workers realize how important caring for their mental health is for themselves, their families and their patients.

A simple way of being supportive to those on the front lines is to make ourselves available. All of us have different reactions to stressful situations. Some are inclined to talk in detail about our experiences while others prefer to avoid discussing them at all. Either way, our consistent availability does matter, even if the other person doesn’t have much to say about their experience right now. As you reach out to others, trust your instincts: If you are concerned about your friend, family member or colleague, say so.

Many healthcare workers have had professional stoicism burned into them from years of strenuous training but that doesn’t mean that expressions of concern and love have no effect. Finally, take your own advice. Even if you are not on the frontlines of the epidemic, you have been affected by it in one way or another. Acknowledging how you feel and talking with others about these feelings is the way we will all get through this moment. Professional therapists are still seeing patients through a wide variety of videoconference platforms so don’t let our current “quarantine” status keep you and those you know on the frontlines from accessing the mental healthcare that we all deserve.

Dr. Jonathan Horey is a psychiatrist and Chief Medical Officer at Active Recovery TMS. Active Recovery TMS is open and still treating patients during the COVID-19 pandemic in its three locations across the Portland metro area. TMS is an effective and safe non-medication treatment for depression. To learn more, visit the provider page.

[1] Lai, et al JAMA Netw Open. 2020;3(3):e203976

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