While much of the focus since the beginning on 2020 was to learn about and mitigate the effects of COVID-19, the mental health issues that may have been pushed aside are now at the forefront of another public health crisis.
Mitigation measures like shelter-in-place orders, social distancing requirements, and mask mandates had some success in curtailing the spread of the virus, they also likely increased what was already a growing mental health problem in the US.
And a year where nothing was normal, screenings for new patients, checkups on existing patients, and warning signs for troubled patients may all have been missed.
But with the pandemic comes an opportunity to improve psychiatry care in the US.
In Coping After COVID: Navigating Psychiatry After a Pandemic, each month an expert in psychiatry will discuss a specific condition and how patients with that disorder may have been impacted by the events of the last 13 months and what the best way to proceed in the future will be.
The expert-led discussion will focus both on a review of how patients may have been impacted by the ongoing pandemic and what needs to change in mental health care to mitigate some of the damage.
For the inaugural episode, Jennifer Payne, MD, Director of the Women’s Mood Disorder Center at Johns Hopkins University, discussed how difficult the pandemic has been for patients with mood disorders who often suffer from symptoms of impulsivity.
Payne explained how common it has been for her patients to request psychiatric assistances because they are either decompensating or overly stressed to the point where they need additional help.
There is also a number of patients who feared contracted COVID-19 and neglected psychiatric help.
And the best advice for both patients and doctors is to develop a self-care plan that includes regular exercise, a good diet, and placing strict boundaries between work and home life.
However, Payne said the ending of the pandemic might offer psychiatrists an opportunity to really improve how mental health disorders are treated in the US and some of the thoughts about how mental illnesses manifest may have changed.