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Mental Health and the COVID-19 Outbreak: What You Need to Know

Riverside Psychiatrist Dr. Raunak Khisty joins us to discuss how to care for your mental health during the COVID-19 outbreak as well as the local resources available to help fight depression, stress, and anxiety.
Mental Health and the COVID-19 Outbreak: What You Need to Know
Raunak Khisty, MD, MPH
Dr. Khisty completed his Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery at the Krishna Institute of Medical Sciences in Karad, India. He went on to receive his Masters of Public Health in Epidemiology from The University of Texas Health Science Center School of Public Health located in Houston, TX. Dr. Khisty also completed a Psychiatry Residency and a Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Fellowship at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, NC. Dr Khisty is board certified in general psychiatry by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. He is a member of several professional associations. As a Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Hospitalist, Dr. Khisty will be seeing patients at Riverside Medical Center.

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Kaleb Miller: Hello and welcome from wherever you are tuning in and thanks for joining me today on the Well Within Reach podcast series by Riverside Healthcare. My name is Kaleb Miller. I'm going to be your host for this podcast and today I am joined once again by Dr. Raunak Khisty. Dr. Khisty is a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist with Riverside Behavioral Medicine and today we are going to be talking about something that is very crucial, especially in the world we are living in related to the COVID-19 outbreak. We're going to be talking about ways that you can keep up your mental health in this global pandemic. Dr. Khisty, Thanks for joining me today.

Dr. Khisty: Thank you so much Kaleb.

Host: So Dr. Khisty, some of the listeners may have heard a little bit about you from our first podcast we recorded together, but just give us a little reminder about who you are and your role here at Riverside.

Dr. Khisty: Sure. So I am a child and adolescent psychiatrist currently working at Riverside Healthcare in the inpatient unit. I completed my residency and fellowship at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, North Carolina. And my clinical interests are primarily child psychiatry, of course, and autism and other mental health disorders.

Host: Great. And so I had mentioned, we're talking about COVID-19 and the outbreak of this Coronavirus across the world. Obviously this is something that is going to be stressful or anxiety inducing for many people, especially those who are listening. And we know that everyone copes with stressful situations differently. So who might respond strongly to the stress of something like this and the COVID-19 outbreak?

Dr. Khisty: I think this entire situation is unprecedented and it is stressful for everybody. However, particularly there are certain vulnerable groups that we are cautiously looking at. These include the elderly people who have chronic illnesses. Of course healthcare professionals, primarily because these are our vulnerable populations right now who are more susceptible to contracting the COVID-19 illness. In addition, we also want to be aware of children and young adults primarily because they are out of school, out of college. This is a break in a schedule for them right now. So these are the people that we are really going to focus on as far as stressful events are concerned.

Host: Yeah, absolutely. And I know one of the largest groups that is, you know, on the front of this disease are healthcare professionals, our doctors, our nurses, our technicians, anyone who's working in the healthcare field. What would you say about, you know, our healthcare professionals, why is this time such a crucial time?

Dr. Khisty: I think this is an extremely vulnerable time for healthcare professionals primarily because as you may have heard in the news, there are inadequate supplies and the access to regular medical care is limited even for healthcare professionals. In addition, there is a lot of misinformation around primarily on social media, and so receiving inadequate information or receiving information that's delayed or not accurate, is pretty stressful for healthcare professionals. One of the big things that we really don't talk about is fears of being infected themselves because they are on the front line and so being afraid of actually having to contract this illness and then subsequently passing it on to their family members is a bigger issue. I have also been hearing from a lot of people across the country that there is a lot of stigma that healthcare professionals are feeling from other people, like their neighbors or even family members who are worried that if they are even socializing or hanging out with the healthcare professionals that they may inadvertently catch the virus.

Host: Yeah, absolutely. And I think another group that is really feeling the weight of this outbreak are parents, you know, children are now home from school all day. They're trying to keep them indoors, entertained, keeping up with schoolwork. What would you say to parents who are facing the burdens of this outbreak?

Dr. Khisty: No, I completely empathize with you. I think this is a dramatic shift, not only for parents, and also the children who are no longer in school, right? Complete break from their routine. What I'm really worried about is parents who are having to juggle working from home as well as providing childcare all at the same time. And that can be a handful. So some of the things that we really are encouraging parents to do is continue to meet their basic needs. What I mean by that is continue to hydrate and continue sleep regularly so that you are able to actually provide care for your children. In addition, we all can agree that childcare can be pretty exhausting at times and so taking breaks and engaging in rest and relaxing devotees can also help parents do decompress at times.

Host: So for these groups who are really on the on the forefront of these changing situations, we're seeing our daily lives because of the COVID-19 outbreak. What are some concerning changes in, you know, maybe habits or moves that listeners should be aware of during this time of quarantine and self distancing and a disease outbreak?

Dr. Khisty: Definitely self care. That's the number one thing that people have to look at. What we are primarily worried about is changes in their eating habits, changes in their sleeping patterns, excessive amount of fear. I mean we all understand that this is an anxiety provoking situation. However, excessive amount of fear where it is hampering your ability to function on a day to day basis. If you're losing weight because you are so worried or scared that you're not having adequate intake of food. Those are really concerning patterns. The other part is people turn to unhealthy mechanisms of coping, like drinking and more alcohol than they should or engaging in using illegal substances or drugs. I think those are definitely some concerning changes in habits.

Host: Yeah, and this is something that listeners should be aware of within themselves, but also others around them as well. Correct?

Dr. Khisty: Absolutely. Absolutely. I think everybody can do several things to just decrease the level of anxiety that they're going through right now.

Host: What are some of those specific things that our listeners could do to boost morale? Keep up their mental health and reduce stress for themselves or others?

Host: I think one of the big things to do right now is just dial down your media exposure. I think it is very important to keep up to date on what's happening. So you want to have reliable sources of information. So the CDC or the NIH websites are great sources of accurate information about this illness. Facebook, Instagram are really not, or even hearing it from your neighbor that's not really an accurate or self information and limit it, you know, do not listen to news one hour before you go to bed. Right. Because when you're going to bed it's just time to decompress and put yourself first. So it could be, the other part is stick to a routine for those who are working from home, dress up in the morning as though you're going to work, you know, you want to stick to a routine so that it doesn't feel that out of sync in anything. Also, there are other people who may not have to work from home, but then you can also pick up a hobby, reading a book, you know, take a walk in your yard where there is, you're assuming getting social distancing. Also for all the animal lovers, your pets are probably super happy that you're at home and so spending more time with their pets is also really, really helpful.

Host: Yeah. You make a great point, Dr. Khisty, about you know, the media and the different channels of media that you know, it's hard to escape news and information about the Coronavirus, whether it's positive or grim. And so do you have any suggestions for replacements that maybe our listeners could use in place of scrolling through Facebook that may be better for their mental health in this time?

Dr. Khisty: Absolutely. There are a lot, I would highly recommend that people watch comedy shows that are available on various platforms via Netflix, Hulu, Apple TV. You do not want to watch gory and scary things primary related to illnesses on these platforms because that's just going to heighten your anxiety.

Host: Yeah, that's a great point. And so if I'm a listener and you know, either myself or someone I know is experiencing extreme depression, anxiety or stress or another mental health crisis in this time, what the steps that you know I should take to address this?

Dr. Khisty: Definitely talk to your loved ones if they're at home with you, somebody who is an adult who you trust, definitely reach out to them. However, if that is not possible or if, if your symptoms are getting so bad that you are worried that you may hurt yourself. 911. Please calls 911 they're always open, right? Hail, snow, sunshine, Christmas Coronavirus, somebody will always answer at 911 in addition, our Riverside Behavioral Health Service line is also open 24 seven so you can also call our behavioral medicine helpline at (844) 442-2551.

Host: And so I know another option that we have even onsite at Riverside Medical Center is the central intake department, which is a really, really good resource and tool for our community to have here in Kankakee County. What is the CID or central intake department and how does it help in time of crisis?

Dr. Khisty: So Riverside formed this ventral intake department as a means of streamlining behavioral health services. And so the central intake department will actually screen people who are experiencing any mental health issues and will then direct them to appropriate resources as are available. And so if you're, if you do end up coming into the hospital and utilizing the services of CID, what you should expect is having a licensed professional doctor conduct a thorough mental health examination and then provide you with appropriate resources depending on your situation.

Host: That is a really great tool for us to have here at Riverside. So Dr. Khisty, You know, you've given us a lot of great resources and I think that we want to reiterate that behavioral medicine helpline number one more time. If you, if you want to just jot it down even on a note or keep it on your phone or maybe on the refrigerator, as we all navigate this time, that helpline number that you can call is (844) 442-2551 that number is 24 seven, correct Dr. Khisty?

Dr. Khisty: Yes. It absolutely is.

Host: So if you are experiencing, you know, a mental health crisis of course, call 911 and visit our CID department, but also keep that helpline number nearby. It is a great resource to have here locally for our community. Dr. Khisty, is there anything else that our listeners should know about, you know, keeping up with their mental health during this crazy time?

Dr. Khisty: Just one to reemphasize, take care of yourself, you know, make sure our basic needs are met, including eating, drinking, and sleeping. Take breaks at pre-determined intervals, exercise and have a plan in place for possible quarantine.

Host: Absolutely. Dr. Khisty, we appreciate what you're doing for our community in this time and we thank you again for joining us on the Well Within Reach Podcast.

Dr. Khisty: Thank you.