By Rahul Kumar
12 min read
During this difficult time of a global pandemic and what seems like never-ending social distancing, know that you are not alone in experiencing mental health struggles. We are speaking to a variety of mental health professionals who are supporting individuals during this tough time and how care has changed as a result of this crisis.
BroglieBox Peer Writer, Rahul Kumar, speaks to Dr. Zlatin Ivanov, MD, a board-certified psychiatrist that practices out of his private clinic in NYC. In his midtown Manhattan practice he provides a warm, welcoming environment so you can feel comfortable sharing your concerns. Dr. Ivanov sees patients for a variety of reasons, including anxiety, bipolar disorder, eating disorder, depression, and addiction treatment. Dr. Ivanov is certified in psychiatry by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology specializes in addiction psychiatry. Please Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Rahul Kumar: What do your day-to-day duties entail as a psychiatrist?
Dr. Zlatin Ivanov: In my practice, I diagnose and treat people with mental, emotional, or behavioral disorders. On a daily basis, I meet with, listen to, and observe patients. From these interactions, I develop treatment plans to help alleviate the person’s mental distress.
RK: Amid the pandemic, how has your work changed? How are they similar to pre-pandemic days?
ZI: Amid the pandemic, just like many other professionals, we had to switch to work from home office and transfer 100% of my patients visits to video consultations.
I had been providing telehealth medicine services long before the COVID-19 hit. The treatments for mental health disorders do not require the patient to be physically present, so the way I diagnose and treat my patients is the same as before. I rely strongly on building a rapport with the patient, making them feel confident to discuss their symptoms and thoughts, and reactions to their treatment plan.
RK: Are you seeing certain trends with mental health conditions? Are individuals feeling more stressed and anxious during this time?
ZI: We have observed a big surge of people suffering from anxiety and panic attacks, as well as a significant rise of a range of depression disorders. Naturally, in these unprecedented times, we are all stressed out. The stress stems not only because we have to navigate overhauling changes in our daily routines while dealing with a global pandemic but also from the uncertain financial environment. In a crisis like that, a person with a mental health issue is much more fragile and sensitive to the changes in our world. Also, a lot of people that have never before experienced a panic attack, come to my care because now they struggle with enormous anxiety and/or deep depression.
RK: In what ways do you feel that mental health services and, more specifically, accessibility, will change because of the pandemic?
ZI: It has been a long coming change for telepsychiatry. It provides easy access to specialty care to underserved areas. I think that even when all this is over, a large portion of the people that seek psychiatric care will still continue to prefer telepsychiatry over visits to the office. It is definitely time-saving for them. It is also my observation that people tend to feel more confident in the comfort of their home and hence more open to discussing their symptoms and responsive to therapy.
RK: What new challenges are many psychiatrists likely to face in the nearby future?
ZI: The end of the pandemic is still not in our immediate future. This only confirms that the need for therapy will rise because of stress from social distancing and isolation, news coverage of the pandemic and the suffering economy.
The COVID-19 is a trauma that affects everybody. The families and friends of the dead struggle and are overwhelmed with grief. People who are ill with the disease and survivors of hospitalization and health workers are also at high-risk for developing PTSD.
Millions have lost their jobs and are now dependent on inadequate resources of charity government assistance. Personal and national economic collapse looms large as masses of people struggle to afford the necessities of life. All these uncertainties for physical survival have a deep effect on the mental state of a person.
RK: What do you personally feel is a major concern related to mental health that is either not currently addressed or needs more attention?
ZI: Social stigma and discrimination can make mental health problems worse and stop a person from getting the help they need. This is something we need to work on. I am very happy to see more and more celebrities open up and discuss their own struggles to maintain mental well-being but we still have a long way to go.
RK: What are some ways that everyday people can help in addressing mental health conditions during this time? Do you have any wellness tips you would like to share?
ZI: Three things…
- Practice Self-Compassion: A person’s mental health is built to a great extent on self-compassion. The key is to practice self-compassion – self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness. Instead of mercilessly judging and criticizing yourself for various inadequacies or shortcomings, self-compassion means you are kind and understanding when confronted with personal failings – after all, who ever said you were supposed to be perfect.
- Build a Strong Support System: In the times of crisis, when we see first-hand what it is to be in a situation where you have very limited or no control at all. Experiencing it for ourselves makes us more open to the suffering of others. We need to be apprehensive to our friends and families and more open about our own struggles. Staying connected in real life and building a strong support system is always the first and most important thing to do. Also, in my experience, building strong structures has always been very helpful in fighting a wide range of mental health disorders.
- Ask for Help: Most of all, don’t be ashamed to ask for help if you feel you’re not able to help yourself
Rahul Kumar is a student who wants to incorporate technology in order to optimize healthcare productivity, especially in the clinical setting. He is entering the University of Miami, and hopes to use his experience and love for the healthcare field to bring meaningful change to the healthcare field. In his free time, Rahul enjoys blogging and photography. He has published past blogs on the impacts of the California Camp Fire, research on Alzheimer’s, and more.
Coronavirus attacking your Mental Health? Check out the below BroglieBox articles:
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