It’s hard to imagine that anyone “escaped” the COVID-19 pandemic without a financial, health, or personal impact. Behavioral health, in particular, has suffered greatly. Even individuals who may have been considered “well adjusted” struggled with their mental health.
Dr. Harsh Trivedi understands just how severe the consequences of the pandemic have been—and how those effects will continue into the future. “Whether you're a part of healthcare, whether you're in the general community, regardless of what you do, the behavioral health impact is going to be huge. That's important, because we know of the substantial relationship between overall health and behavioral health.”
Stopping the Stigma
Behavioral health encompasses a number of different conditions, such as anxiety, depression, mood disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and substance abuse. Mental health issues have notoriously fallen victim to stigma. But, both the medical community and the general population are beginning to understand that mental health is just as important as physical health.
Some credit can be given to celebrities, like Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka, who have recently spoken out about their mental health challenges. The up-and-coming generation Z is also more open about discussing mental health struggles—effectively changing the conversation around this pervasive problem, especially in the workplace environment.
“I think this has created a space where it's okay to say [you’re struggling], without it having an impact on whether or not you have a job. Every family is impacted in some way by a mental health issue or condition. I really do hope we are at a new chapter where it's okay to talk about it,” shares Dr. Trivedi. “And, more importantly, we help people who are talking about their difficulties in the same way we would help someone who comes out with a cancer diagnosis or is dealing with any other health issue.”
Taking Care of Our Frontline Workers
While healthcare workers were celebrated for being “heroes” throughout the pandemic, they too have been subject to extreme devastation. Not all have handled it well.
“The fact that you saw your colleagues contract COVID, die of COVID. That was just part of the regular, everyday activity of going to work. There was a different kind of vulnerability that, honestly, most of us in healthcare aren't used to,” says Dr. Trivedi.
And, just when frontline workers were starting to get a bit of a break, the Delta variant dragged them back into the battleground. “I think these are all things that will have lasting behavioral health impacts,” he adds. “We have to support our folks right now in the moment and do everything we can to prevent issues. But, more importantly, we know things like PTSD will come up. We have to provide them the right care and the right support, so they can keep on working.”
Hospital leadership can play a key role in ensuring their workers are getting the help they need, no matter if that’s some time off or more serious intervention.
Alongside behavioral health support, Dr. Trivedi urges healthcare systems to ensure they’re covering all the “logistical” aspects of making the day-to-day operations easier on healthcare workers. This includes ensuring hospitals are equipped with an ample supply of PPE and other COVID-reliant equipment like ventilators.
Looking to the Future, Bearing the Lessons of the Past
COVID-19 has been just one factor leading to mental health challenges. Even when it eases, there will still be stress and anxiety to deal with. Fortunately, the stigma surrounding mental health is lessening. More people are recognizing the impact it has on individuals personally, as well as the societal burden.
But, Dr. Trivedi cautions there is still a ways to go. “One of the biggest things we lack is access. When a person needs help, can they get help today? Most health systems still struggle with that. Depression is just as real as a concussion, just as real as cancer. It takes a toll on a person. Because of the stigma, we need to make it so it's okay to bring up these things and to talk about them.”
|Dr. Harsh Trivedi
||Futurescan 2022-2026: Health Care Trends and Implications