As the pandemic drags on, Dr. Baldeep Singh is seeing many patients who are not only having trouble physically but also mentally and emotionally.
When Dennis came to see me, I could see something was wrong. He started telling me about fatigue, headaches, and trouble sleeping. After some probing, he shared that his marriage was tense, work was a struggle, and the stress of COVID on him and his family had become overwhelming. I decided to screen him for a mood disorder.
During the pandemic, about four in 10 adults have reported symptoms of anxiety or depression, up from one in 10 prior to COVID. Many adults report difficulty sleeping or eating, increased alcohol consumption or substance use, and worsening chronic conditions, often due to worry and stress over life’s changes due to the coronavirus. As the pandemic wears on, continuing and necessary public health measures can foster isolation and loneliness, while at the same time, so many people have lost jobs or left unsafe ones, both circumstances that would affect mental health even in better times.
Essential workers bear the brunt of the risk, exposing themselves to the virus every day. Among frontline workers, in some places, healthcare personnel compare current conditions to a war zone. They feel frustration getting protective resources such as testing and PPE, and it can be hard not to resent the unvaccinated who have increased the personal risk to themselves, as well as to the many health care workers they encounter.
After screening Dennis, I talked to him about his social support system and various coping strategies, including spending time in nature, meditation, exercise, and taking a break from social media and the news. Together, we decided we would start therapy and medication to help him through the crisis. I thanked him for his courage to seek help. All of us may need to reach out for support more than usual these days.
As we start 2022, let’s all help each other and ask for support when we need it, because when the virus starts to abate, we will still feel COVID’s mental health effects for months and years to come.
With a Perspective, I’m Dr. Baldeep Singh.
Dr. Baldeep Singh is a South Bay physician.