Tips For Maintaining Good Mental Health During The Coronavirus Shutdown

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On this special Sunday edition of Daily Detroit, we’ve got more updates on the fast-evolving COVID-19 outbreak, plus an interview with Dr. Joel Young, founder of the Rochester Center for Behavioral Medicine, for some tips on keeping good mental health during this difficult time.

We have updated figures on confirmed coronavirus cases and new orders from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and other leaders. Among them is a new order temporarily closing hair salons, barber shops, tattoo parlors and other personal-care and -grooming businesses through April 13. Bars and restaurants will stay closed through the same date in an extension of that order, except for carry-out and delivery.

Later in the show, we speak with Dr. Joel Young, medical director and founder of the Rochester Center for Behavioral Medicine, about the psychiatric implications of everyone being so isolated from one another and huddling indoors while a dangerous pandemic spreads. A transcription of that interview follows.

Sven Gustafson 0:00
Dr. Young Welcome to Daily Detroit. Just out of curiosity, we’re here watching schools be closed, you know, bars and restaurants ordered shut down and everything. Is the Rochester center for Behavioral Medicine, are you guys still accepting patients? Or How are you handling all this?

Dr. Young 0:16
Yeah, well, thanks for having me. This is really a critical time and obviously an unusual time in every aspect of American life. I’m a psychiatrists and I run the Rochester Center for Behavioral Medicine, which is in Rochester Hills. And we are about 70 plus therapists and staff. We’ve been around for about 30 years, and we take care of a lot of people with mental health need from 3 to 103. And we did just recently with this impending coronal virus threat that is spreading throughout the region, the area of the country, the world, and actually late last week, we we became almost entirely virtual, so that all of our patients are now being seen through Zoom. And most of our therapists are now seeing their patients remotely from their homes. So this was essentially an overnight transformation from our practice just trying to keep everybody staff and our patients healthy and safe.

Sven Gustafson 1:29
I can imagine that brings plenty of its own challenges there as well as, you know, a lot of lot of your patients probably don’t know how to use zoom and so forth. Right?

Dr. Young 1:38
Well, it’s interesting. Before the corona irus emerged, the movement had been towards telehealth. So we at the Rochester Center has have been piloting this for about six months. So when this threat really became evident we were prepared. And although not all of our psychiatrist and therapist were equipped we we had enough of a critical mass where one was able to teach the other. And consequently, we in a rather orderly but quick manner, we taught each other how to do it. And now we’re in the process of teaching our patients. Having said that, for our patients who are older, or may not have Wi-Fi, we are we will see them on the telephone or we’ll talk with them on the telephone. And it’s not as good as seeing them. And we’re aspiring to 100% Zoom. But we really want to make contact with our patients. We we feel like this is a time of high stress needs. Yeah. And so we really want to make contact with them.

Sven Gustafson 2:50
So speaking of high stress needs, my wife got a call yesterday — just a quick personal story, but to your point, my wife got a call from our neighbor, a friend of ours. Our children are friends. And she told my wife, you know, I can’t stop crying. I’m just so freaked out by all this. And she went on to say that she didn’t feel comfortable letting our children play together for the time being. I mean, clearly this is, as you said, I think earlier uncharted territory, and it’s got to be rattling people pretty severely. What are you seeing? What are people telling your your staff?

Dr. Young 3:26
You know, it’s interesting because there are not that many external crises that come into our doors. It’s quite remarkable. Even when there’s political strife or congressional hearings, we rarely hear that in the exam room. People are there because of their pre existing issues, their depression, their anxiety, their ADHD, their bipolar disorder, or their marriage or their own personal issues, but in my career now, close to 30 years, it hasn’t always been, surprisingly enough, that people bring external issues in. Certainly 911 was one of them. But this might be another episode, where external conditions are significantly affecting why people are coming to us. Because we’re all trying to figure out our new world order. This whole idea that even our kids probably can’t play with each other, which is just devastating because everyone’s becoming more isolated. And we’re making these moment to moment transitions. So people are on top of their pre existing issues of anxiety, depression are now faced with these life changes.

Sven Gustafson 4:40
So what kinds of things are you recommending to people as as far as coping mechanisms. What can people do to kind of stay above the fray and and remain calm here?

Dr. Young 4:50
Well, these are difficult issues. We want people to be aware and we want people to be tied in to what the public health profession are telling us. I think we are getting some really good information. And CNN and the cable networks are by and large putting on only quality people. And so on one aspect I want people to be informed and understand the developing risks so that they can make good decisions.

On the other hand, too much of this is very anxiety-provoking. So we are suggesting that people spend 30 minutes or so maybe two times a day getting updates, but if it’s causing you anxiety or tension, then limit it to that. At the same time, we don’t want people put their head in the sand and not listen to what the public health officials are telling us. So I think that’s first and foremost: knowledge but not overdoing it. Don’t go overboard.

I think some other things you know, are important. Obviously, I’m primary really concerned about my patients who have pre existing conditions and mental health conditions, people with anxiety, depression, ADHD, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia. And I really want everyone to take treatment, the fundamental treatment, so as to be able to handle this new stress well. So, one thing we’re doing as a clinic is staying open and making sure that people get not only their counseling, but medications as necessary. For those people who don’t have pre-existing anxiety and depression, you know, I think good standard practices include good hygiene, trying to eat as well as possible. It’s easy to just eat starches and and foods, and that might be the best you can do at this point, but trying to eat healthy and proteins and vegetables if you can gain access to them. Exercise is good. Families are probably not congregating with other families, which makes it very hard on parents who have young children, underscores how credibly difficult it is to take care of children, and how exhausting it is. And so as much as we can, spouses can help one another, so it doesn’t fall to one person. But it is truly an incredibly taxing experience. And of course, it gives us all so much respect for teachers and to kindergarten teacher and elementary school teachers who are doing this on a daily basis. But even they have more than one person to get them through the day. So if you can divide it among, say, parents, and that’s, that’s the best way to proceed.

Sven Gustafson 7:48
So staying on the parents and children angle, any tips for parents for ways to talk with their children about this, to help them understand it and to To keep them feeling safe, and to also keep them active and positive?

Dr. Young 8:05
There are some videos. I don’t have the link to them, but I think that they are available. There are 45 seconds to three-minute discussions for children about this. I think depending on the child, there’s sophistication. We wanna be positive. And I think we want to keep them away from doom and gloom and catastrophizing this. And I think by socially isolating ourselves, if we teach our children that there is a virus, we have to be careful but they are going to be safe, we are reinforced by the comfort that, although some members of our society, particularly those who are older and have some underlying medical illness, are vulnerable, fortunately, children and younger adults and adolescents seem to be better protected. We still want to keep them isolated and not interacting with their more vulnerable grandparents or sick relatives. But I think it’s good to, you know, tell our children that things will be good, that authorities are making good decisions, giving us good information, and we will emerge, despite the fact that life looks different right now.

Sven Gustafson 9:22
Alright. Dr. Joel Young, medical director and founder of Rochester Center for Behavioral Medicine. Thanks so much for talking with us on Daily Detroit.

Dr. Young 9:30
My pleasure. Good luck to everyone out there.

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