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Show 1238: How Is COVID-19 Affecting Mental Health?

The stresses of this pandemic year pose mental health challenges for many people. How can you manage and help your children cope?
Show 1238: How Is COVID-19 Affecting Mental Health?
Robin Gurwitch, PhD, Professor of psychiatry and behavioral xciences at the Duke University Medical Center and the Center for Child & Family Health.
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How Is COVID-19 Affecting Mental Health?

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These are stressful times. Many people are grieving the death of a loved one, while others are struggling with working or studying from home. Being separated from loved ones can be emotionally draining. How are you dealing with the mental health challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic?

Trauma and Kids’ Mental Health:

Trauma, like that experienced on 9/11, can have a profound impact on children’s mental health. That depends largely on how the adults in their lives are able to support them. This pandemic may be traumatic for many youngsters. How do their parents evaluate whether kids are coping well enough? Our expert guest, Dr. Robin Gurwitch, describes resources where parents can get help for their children.

School and Holidays:

Perhaps when schools first sent students home to learn online, some kids would have welcomed the reprieve from routine. By now, however, many if not most are so over it. How can parents help children having a hard time learning over Zoom? We’ll also discuss how families may want to observe winter holidays unlike any others.

The Pandemic Reveals Societal Stresses:

Difficulties with employment, housing, even putting food on the table, reveal ways in which we have not been taking care of everyone in our society. The constant stress over the course of this pandemic year is causing mental health challenges for a lot of people (JAMA, Nov. 23, 2020). How can you tell if you are appropriately bummed out by the circumstances or if you are really becoming depressed?

Dealing With Depression:

If you find you are indeed depressed, what are your options? Many mental health professionals are offering telehealth counseling (JAMA Psychiatry, Dec. 1, 2020). Our guest expert Dr. Timothy Strauman also has tips for dealing with burnout. We should all be practicing kindness and acknowledging the frontline workers, including those in the supermarket, post office and other positions outside of healthcare.

If you are not on the front lines yourself, you may be working from home. While that helps protect you from infection, it can also be frustrating. How can you get your work done and also take care of your mental health? Self-care is extremely important. Dr. Strauman has recommendations for the unpredictability of the coming months.

This Week’s Guests:

Robin Gurwitch, PhD, is a professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Duke University Medical Center and the Center for Child & Family Health. She is a recognized expert in understanding and supporting children in the aftermath of trauma and disasters. Dr. Gurwitch has been involved in direct services, research, consultation, and material development following national and international disasters and terrorist events. She has been an active member of the National Child Traumatic Stress Network since it began in 2001. The photo is of Dr. Gurwitch.

Timothy Strauman, PhD, is a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University. He studies the psychological and neurobiological aspects of self-regulation, or how people pursue goals in the face of inevitable challenges and how problems in self-regulation can lead to disorders such as depression. He also studies how treatments for depression work.

Listen to the Podcast:

The podcast of this program will be available Monday, December 7, 2020, after broadcast on December 5. The show can be streamed online from this site and podcasts can be downloaded for free. CDs may be purchased at any time after broadcast for $9.99.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
  • McGinty EE et al, "Psychological distress and COVID-19–related stressors reported in a longitudinal cohort of US adults in April and July 2020." JAMA, Nov. 23, 2020. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.21231
  • Torous J & Wykes T, "Opportunities from the Coronavirus Disease 2019 pandemic for transforming psychiatric care with telehealth." JAMA Psychiatry, Dec. 1, 2020. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2020.1640
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