Girishkumar Dhorajia, MD, medical director, Addiction Recovery and Mental Health Services at Carle BroMenn Medical Center, understands the challenges that cause many people to experience negative mental health or substance misuse consequences, but in his seven years at BroMenn Medical Center, he has not seen anything quite like the situation that exists now. Demand for behavioral health services, which is traditionally high, has sky-rocketed since the pandemic began as more and more people experience stress, anxiety, fear, sadness and loneliness. Many with prior mental health disorders, like anxiety and depression, find their conditions worsening.
“For mental health as well as for substance use issues this is definitely a perfect storm,” Dr. Dhorajia says. Current events and circumstances impacting many of us can act as triggers, producing unwanted emotional or psychiatric issues like anxiety, depression and despair. Now add the winter season and those who routinely experience seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression with a seasonal pattern, are dealt a second blow.
Explains Dr. Dhorajia, “One of the treatments we try to provide for mental health and substance use disorder is balance between stressors and coping skills. The recent dynamics have been so unpredictable for nearly two years that the sense of stability has been lost for many people affecting the balance of stress and intrinsic coping skills. The patients we are seeing right now for addiction and mental health services feel so vulnerable, which can lead to a downward spiral causing more severe mental health issues. Some resort to using substances to get some relief while others turn to self-harm. Both lead to significant impact to psychosocial functioning of an individual and the society.”
At Carle BroMenn Medical Center, Dr. Dhorajia oversees the recently renovated 13,000 square foot behavioral health unit for inpatient mental health and addiction recovery. Its 13 beds for mental health patients have stayed full throughout most of the pandemic, while the 9 addiction recovery beds have been more accessible even as demands for the intensive outpatient program have remained high.
Faced with the increased demand for services and the continued focus on the pandemic and COVID-19 disease, those struggling with substance use issues or mental health issues may feel lost in the shuffle. but Dr. Dhorajia urges everyone to not let that limit them. “There is help out there. It starts with reaching out.”
Friends, family members, co-workers and patients should be encouraged to reach out to their healthcare providers to make sure they get the help they need for their substance use or mental health situation. “Think through what are the healthy things of life that we can all do,” suggests Dr. Dhorajia. “Even amid the pandemic having a good sleep cycle, regularly exercising, practicing meditation or yoga, eating healthy and expanding social networks within the bounds of COVID-19, benefits mental health and boost coping skills before, during and after connecting with services from a mental health or addiction provider.
“Get down to the basics. When things get complicated get down to the basics and figure out what are the main things of life that we still need to maintain even when things are bad. Take care of yourself and, if you are still struggling, understand that help is out there if you reach out.”
If you or someone you know is in crisis, call 911, go to the nearest emergency room or call the PATH crisis hotline at 2-1-1 or 1-888-865-9903. For more information about Behavioral Health Services at Carle BroMenn Medical Center, contact the hospital at (309) 454-1400 or call (309) 268-5993 for an addiction assessment.
Categories: Staying Healthy