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How to Address the Stress of Current Events on Mental Health

September 12, 2022
On July 16, the new National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, 988, launched. According to the Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use, total call volume increased by 45 percent and 988 Lifeline counselors answered 23,000 more calls, texts, and chats than they had the week before the transition. Implementation of a centralized, easy to remember lifeline was an important step in expanding access to mental health support but also a reminder of how essential these services have become, especially in the past three years.

All of us employ some type of coping mechanisms throughout our lives to deal with stress, and everyone has a different threshold for suffering. With current events, people’s capacity to cope is being challenged to its limit, and in some cases, the prevalence of stress has gone from circumstantial to persistent.

“Currently, too many things are happening to too many people at the same time,” Rachna Raisinghani, MD, Chair of Psychiatry at GBMC and an adult psychiatrist at Sheppard Pratt, said. “Under normal circumstances, if you are having a hard time, the odds that people in your social sphere are similarly strained are low. Which means it’s easy to buffer these incidents and support the person who is suffering with nurturing and care. Right now, we are all operating at capacity.”

Anyone can have anxiety. However, lately, it can be difficult to tell if what you are experiencing requires professional help or is simply a reflection of the times. Dr. Raisinghani says a clinical diagnosis of anxiety or depression is defined by its duration, severity, and the degree of disruption it causes in a person’s life.

“If someone is experiencing persistent symptoms of depression, and/or anxiety, and it is causing distress, creating problems in their relationships and their work environment, etc., then it leads to a clinical diagnosis,” she said.

Mental health challenges are as real as any other medical condition, and some cannot be tackled alone. People who have diagnosed mental health disorders should maintain a relationship with a qualified primary care or mental healthcare provider. Those who are on the fence about seeking treatment or wondering how to get through the day may be able to seek solace in simple strategies.

It may feel at times that problems and crises around us are too big, too immense for us to do anything about them. It is important to remind ourselves: although we may not singlehandedly solve the bigger problems in life, we can control the simple ones.

Taking care of our own health by eating well, getting enough sleep and attending to our medical needs will put us in a better position to endure what comes our way. It is also healthy to have a support system of people who are open-minded, accepting and reliably present.

For a higher level of care, seeing a therapist and/or a psychiatrist is highly recommended. Even if you aren't sure whether it's right for you, Dr. Raisinghani recommends taking the initial step to establish care and allowing yourself to accept help.

“It’s often easier to get follow-up appointments than a new patient appointment,” she said. “If you have things you’ve been dealing with, get in with someone. If the time comes when something worsens, or you need help, it’s much easier to get in with someone you know and trust than starting from scratch.”

Recognizing traditional one-on-one therapy is not accessible for everyone, Dr. Raisinghani suggests seeking a wider network of providers through telehealth, or exploring therapy apps, workbooks and support groups.

“It’s not what I would want for myself or a loved one who needs mental health care, but we have to meet the situation where it is,” she said. “It may not be ideal but it’s a start. That’s not where treatment ends.”

There are also options for GBMC Health Partners primary care patients through the Collaborative Care Model. Any Health Partners patient can be referred by their primary care physician (PCP) to a behavioral health specialist through this program. Typically, a PCP will administer a screening and then refer patients to a behavioral health care manager, who is overseen by a psychiatrist.

The aim of the Collaborative Care Model is to provide brief and timely interventions for mild to moderate mental health issues, in the convenience of a PCP office, while referring out those with more serious illness. It is designed to efficiently use psychiatric expertise to help the maximum number of people without delaying treatment.

GBMC HealthCare’s vision of putting patients first is not just for the body, but the whole patient, including the mind. Whatever the challenge, know help is available.
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