Clinicians bracing for mental health impact amid reopening reversals

By | July 9, 2020

Many mental health experts have described clients’ increasing anxiety and depression amid the coronavirus pandemic. However, with many states pausing or rolling back reopenings, clinicians now worry about worsening episodes given mistrust, fear of the unknown and a perceived false sense of hope.

A number of stressors are manifesting in people, Anisha Patel-Dunn, psychiatrist and chief medical officer of national outpatient behavioral health company LifeStance, told Fox News.

Patel-Dunn and her team of clinicians nationwide worry about the increased prevalence of suicidal patients, alcohol and substance misuse and those patients coming out of remission. She noted fear of a second lockdown and the toll it could take on mental health.

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“We (the mental health community) all are trying to brace ourselves that things are going to get even worse,” Patel-Dunn said, as states put the brakes on reopenings. “From a medical side, if someone has COVID-19 and they get sick, the recovery is a few weeks. With mental health, it’s not as cut and dry.”

Anisha Patel-Dunn, psychiatrist and chief medical officer of LifeStance. (Photo courtesy of LifeStance).

Anisha Patel-Dunn, psychiatrist and chief medical officer of LifeStance. (Photo courtesy of LifeStance).

“People that are already in the depths of despair, seeing the world through these gray lenses, (thinking) there’s just no hope… the idea of a second lockdown they think is just really unbearable,” she said.

Patel-Dunn offers outpatient mental health services in California, where Gov. Gavin Newsom had ordered bar closures, for example, across counties given the upward trend of virus spread.

In larger cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles, the psychiatrist noted “profound” social isolation among single people in their 20s and 30s. “I’ve seen some people where they’ve been hesitant to go outside for walks, which I’ve been encouraging all along, and all our clinicians as well.”

California Lt. Governor Eleni Kounalakis spoke to Fox News Digital in late June about her state’s spike in COVID-19 cases and efforts to prevent a second shutdown.

“We believe that testing and following up with tracking is going to be a big part of our scientific-based approach to keeping the virus under control,” Kounalakis had said, noting increasing positivity rates, hospitalizations and patients in intensive care due to COVID-19.

As LifeStance has further transitioned in-office visits to telepsychiatry and teletherapy amid the pandemic, Patel-Dunn noted a worry of “clinician burnout,” given prolonged periods spent in front of the computer. The company hired the most clinicians in its history last quarter, she said, with that figure now sitting around 2,300 professionals, including psychiatrists, advanced psychiatric nurse practitioners, therapists and psychologists who see the commercially insured.

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Experts have said that the stigma around mental health issues is subsiding amid the pandemic as everybody feels symptoms of anxiety and depression to a certain extent.

“Everybody is struggling and I really encourage people to reach out for help, it’s so easy,” Patel-Dunn said. “Just a few clicks and you can do it from the comfort of your own home.”


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