Psychiatrists see spike in substance abuse, mental health cases since quarantine began


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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The quarantine is taking a toll on those who struggle with substance abuse, anxiety and mental health disorders.

For those who have come far in their recovery, experts believe the transition back to normality may be just as challenging of a process.

It’s faith over fear for Nikole Young and Sarah Rice.

“I’m used to chaos in addiction, but not chaos in sobriety, so it’s been a huge challenge,” Young explained.

Both women are recovering addicts at the Talitha Koum Women’s Recovery House in Greenfield. Balancing their mental health and the pandemic has been a challenge.

“It’s been a struggle. I haven’t been able to work, and I haven’t been able to see my kids,” said Rice.

“We’re okay to have those rough days as long as we don’t stay there, and we talk about it,” Young added.

And they are not alone with those feelings.

“Since the on-set of COVID-19, it really just served as a magnifying glass for a lot of those symptoms for a lot of patients,” said Christopher Bojrab, a physician and psychiatrist with Indiana Health Group.

He’s noticed an uptick in calls.

“By statistics, the thing that we see the most of are anxiety disorders, mood disorders and certainly the whole gamut of things, including illnesses like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, eating disorders and a variety of substance abuse disorders,” Bojrab added.

“Interestingly, as we track our patient calls, our new patient calls we’ve seen not only an uptick in existing patients coming in perhaps a little more frequently, but also patients who had completed their care and courses who we have not seen for months or years.”

He says for many clinicians, it’s unchartered territory, and they are very busy. As they rely on tele-health to reach those who are struggling, the number of patients is on the rise.

“It has been important for people to try to stay connected to their treatment teams and their sources of care,” Bojrab added. “Psychiatry is really under-served across the country and especially here in Indiana. In fact, Indiana ranks 48th in the nation for supply of psychiatrist per capita,” Bojrab explained.

This new normal has brought on anxiety in many forms. Those who are recovering or dealing with addiction could be finding outlets to cope. Bojrab insists we have to focus on ourselves.

“If you see someone out there buying paint or buying gardening stuff, more power to them if this helps them get through this time, and those are certainly activities that aren’t putting them or other people at risk when they are actually doing the activities,” said Bojrab.

Connecting with help is the first step, and it’s not just professionals who say so. Young and Rice know firsthand how it could change your life.

“It’s a real struggle, but if you want it, you will get it,” said Rice.

Young added, “Don’t sit in self and pity because it won’t get you anywhere but back out on the streets.”

Indiana Health Group adds that the insurance industry is making it easier to get in touch with tele-health counseling or therapy services. Many companies are adopting policies that don’t charge patients for co-pays or deductibles.

To learn more about Indiana Health Group, click here.

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