Joshua Gordon, Director of NIMH
It’s not just anxiety about contracting the coronavirus, it’s also fear and anxiety about what’s happening to society, what’s happening to our economy, what’s happening to our friends and relatives. And then there is tremendous grief. We’ve acknowledged that we’ve all lost something already.
I hope you had a chance to hear our recent livestream with Francis Collins. I’d like to highlight one thing he spoke about: the challenges to mental health at this time. The coronavirus is contagious and has no cure, so we must stay physically distant from one another. If we don’t, hospitals will be overwhelmed and many more people will die. In the first two weeks of April, the number of reported U.S. deaths from COVID-19 was over 15 times the number of deaths from influenza, and numbers are still incomplete.
However, as we all are painfully aware, the necessary efforts to preserve physical health are putting a big strain on our mental health, family dynamics, economic security, and spiritual health. On April 7, Francis Collins talked specifically about mental health issues with his colleague, Joshua Gordon, Director of NIH’s National Institute of Mental Health.
The two talked through many issues related to mental health, including how to overcome isolation by connecting remotely with friends and family. Collins, for example, said he has been holding weekly Zoom meetings with his children and grandchildren.
Gordon said, “We’ve lost our normal day-to-day interactions. We’ve lost our ability to physically connect with people and it makes it more challenging to socially connect with people. And we’ve lost that sense of certainty and self-power.”
They also discussed challenges of fear, stress, anxiety, and grief, and several things people can do to cope with it all–including how to recognize if you or someone you love needs help from a mental health professional.
Insight from Gordon: “We’re all feeling anxious, but if you feel so anxious you can’t get your work done, you actually can’t do the thing that you set out to do, reach out for help either from a friend or from a professional. Other signs would be you’re starting to withdraw from people, having trouble sleeping, change in appetite, change in physical energy levels, or starting to become irritable or angry.”
You can read their exchange in its entirety on the NIH Director’s Blog.
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