As state begins to reopen, mental health still a top concern

As state begins to reopen, mental health still a top concern
May 25
12:37 2020

Even as North Carolina begins to show signs of opening back up, these remain challenging times for many people in our state and around the country. Over the past two months, mental health experts say they have seen an increased number of people experiencing anxiety, negative thoughts and family conflicts. 

“As we all continue to navigate these uncertain times, many of my patients are facing unprecedented social anxieties and challenges related to their families and their finances,” said Dr. Gisela Kohl, a psychiatrist with Certus Psychiatry and Integrated Care, based in Winston-Salem. “Many people are wondering if they’ll be able to stay healthy when they go back to work; others no longer have a job to return to.” 

Kohl said she and her colleagues have been helping patients who are struggling with isolation, the inability to plan and disagreements between family members.

“Parents have experienced the challenges that come with college students suddenly moving back in with them – others had to quickly learn how to balance working from home with helping their children with their schoolwork,” she said. “While it’s been a learning curve, many children have been able to become more independent with their schoolwork and we’ve also seen older siblings helping the little ones with their work.”

She said she is reminding her patients to not feel like everything needs to be done perfectly.

“Just do the best you can and try to take life one day at a time,” she said.

As the economy begins to reopen, Kohl said many people will continue to stay home and avoid public places. 

“If we all remember to keep socially distancing ourselves, practicing good hygiene and being good neighbors, I am hopeful a significant amount of worry will go away with time.”

For those who are dealing with financial stress, Kohl said developing plans and goals often helps people feel organized and prepared and reduces the anxiety of the unknown.

“As a physician, I’ve been encouraging my patients to rely on their support system of family and friends and to not neglect their own health needs, both mentally and physically, during this time.”

Despite the challenges, Kohl said she and her team at Certus, much like her colleagues across the country, have taken the opportunity to use telemedicine to remain connected with an increasing number of patients.

“Before the pandemic, telemedicine was often seen as a last resort for extreme cases and many patients felt it just wasn’t the same as meeting face-to-face even though we’ve had it in place for a few years,” she said. “But now, we’ve been able to answer all of the technology and privacy questions that our patients have had, and they’ve been so grateful to be able to continue to receive services.

“We’ve also enjoyed getting to know our patients in a different way, learning more about their environments and virtually experiencing some of their hobbies and interests.”

Kohl said one of the most serious concerns during this time is the increase in alcohol and drug use. She said people who have been diagnosed with substance abuse or dependence are extremely vulnerable during stressful times.

“Isolation and social withdrawal are triggers for this population and even for people who did not actively use substances in the past,” she said. “Many people are depressed, anxious, alone and do not have support from family or friends, so it’s our responsibility to carefully discuss these issues with our patients and let them know that we are here to provide help and not to judge them.”

Kohl said for many of her patients, the past two months have been the most stressful time their families have experienced in several generations, but she added, “I feel so privileged that my team and I are able to serve those in our community by carefully listening to their concerns and fears and working with them to remain positive, healthy and focused on the fact that things will get better at some point.”

For more information, people can call Certus Psychiatry and Integrated Care at 336-701-3111 or email them at

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