Permanente physicians share advice for supporting mental health through COVID-19 in Forbes

Three Permanente psychiatrists shared insights on supporting mental health through the COVID-19 pandemic in a recent Forbes article. Mabel Bongmba, MD, Gregory Kellermeyer, MD, and Maria Koshy, MD, each spoke about the difficult emotions many individuals are processing and important learnings from this time.

“I think we can leverage the experience of the pandemic to emphasize that mental health care is health care,” said Dr. Bongmba, a physician practicing psychiatry at Kaiser Permanente Factoria Medical Center in Bellevue, Washington. “Just like we wouldn’t feel ashamed going to a cardiologist, we shouldn’t feel that way if we’re experiencing depression, anxiety, or a substance use concern. These are all health issues that needs to be addressed.”

Some of the anxiety people are feeling at this time comes from the extraordinary changes occurring all around them. According to Dr. Kellermeyer, psychiatrist with Colorado Permanente Medical Group, one way to help patients on this front is by explaining that society is going through a transition period.

“Encouraging them to take steps in that direction and giving them hope that as they move through this transition, things will get better and become easier [is very important],” he added.

Through the pandemic, clinicians have identified emotional tools that can help both patients and care teams cope through the challenges that come with navigating a new normal.

“As someone who works in mental health, I’ve always had this privilege of seeing how resilience works to help my patients deal with stress and trauma,” said Dr. Koshy, psychiatrist with The Permanente Medical Group. “With the pandemic, I have been privileged to see a similar process amongst my colleagues — their resilience has helped them weather an enormous amount of fear, anxiety, and uncertainty this past year. That’s giving me hope.”

Dr. Bongmba also noted that the pandemic has highlighted the importance of self-care, which presents new opportunities to “be our best selves” and nurture positive growth.

Note: Read the full story on the Forbes website.