A Psychiatrist Explains the Importance of Taking Care of Your Mental Health

If there’s one phrase that continues to get repeated over and over again as people describe what life is like right now, it’s “these uncertain times.” So as we all try to navigate through something as large and uncertain as a global pandemic, it’s safe to say almost everyone is feeling a bit more anxious lately. For people who were already dealing with mental health issues, COVID-19 may be greatly impacting their health. And for people who may have never faced mental health concerns, these uncertain times can certainly change that.

To discover more about the importance of mental health, especially during the pandemic, we spoke with Dr. Melchor Mercado, a board-certified psychiatrist. In practice for more than 20 years, Dr. Mercado is currently the lead psychiatrist for Cameron Psychiatry, part of the Cameron Medical Group.

Why is it important to take care of mental health, not just physical health, during the virus outbreak?

Dr. Mercado stressed that taking care of your mental health should always be a priority, “Life doesn’t stop. Just like with medical care, you need to continue treatments, even during this pandemic.” He went on to say that right now, people are especially anxious, including individuals who may not normally experience these feelings. He explains, “People are worried that they’ll get sick, or their family will get sick. Plus, a range of other big issues, such as unemployment, finances and such.” All of these issues can cause stress to build up, which can impact both our mental and physical health.  

What types of mental health issues are people struggling with during the pandemic?

According to Dr. Mercado, the number one thing people are struggling with is uncertainty. Whether it’s their health, personal finances or relationships, the common denominator is the sense of not having control. This can cause non-stop worrying which can be damaging to both mental and physical health. He goes on to explain that once people realize it’s about control, they can begin to address that issue. Dr. Mercado also stresses the importance of prioritizing mental health to protect yourself.

There is so much information to handle each day. How do you balance the positive aspect of being informed with the negative impact of being overwhelmed with bleak news?

Dr. Mercado says one of the things that makes many people anxious right now is the amount of information we are bombarded with each day. As he says, “There’s too much news!” This constant stream of information, much of it alarming or at least concerning, can be extremely taxing. His solution is to choose one reliable source for information, stressing the word “reliable.” For him, it’s the CDC. He says you should pay attention to where you get your information, focusing on sources you can trust, then let a lot of the other information go.

The CDC advises people with existing mental health conditions to continue treatment, especially now. But what about people who are struggling with anxiety for the first time? Is this a good time to start treatment?

Dr. Mercado’s answer to this question was simple – “Yes!” He goes on to explain further, “Anytime you are feeling overwhelmed or anxious is a good time to start treatment. If you are unable to handle all the stress you are feeling or it is affecting your life, then you should seek care right away. Remember, we are here to help.” He mentioned an inability to sleep or increased irritability as signs you may need help dealing with mental health issues.

Dr. Mercado compared mental health to other health conditions, “Mental health is no different from a condition such as asthma. Maybe before you could get by using an over-the-counter remedy. But, if your symptoms got worse, you needed more in-depth help, so you call a doctor. It’s the same with mental health.”

What steps are you taking to ensure patient safety?

“We take every precaution possible to ensure the safety of our patients,” says Dr. Mercado. He went on to explain that at Cameron Hospital, there are a number of protocols in place, including monitoring, social distancing, masks and more.

When asked what if people were still hesitant to receive mental health care, Dr. Mercado pointed out the increased use of telehealth resources. He says that he believes this option works especially well for mental health visits.

What is the most important thing you want people to know about mental health?

“If you are suffering from anxiety or any emotional distress right now, we are just a phone call away. We’re here to serve you. Don’t hesitate to take care of your mental health, now or at any time.”

If you have any questions about COVID-19 or Cameron’s safety measures, you can call Cameron’s COVID-19 Resource Line at 260-667-5555. It’s available Monday through Friday from 8am to 7:30pm and Saturday and Sunday from 9am to 5:30pm.

For more information about Cameron Psychiatry, call us at 260-667-5635. You can also schedule an appointment online or through Cameron MyChart.

Reviewed by: Dr. Melchor Mercado, Cameron Psychiatry
Dr. Mercado is a board-certified psychiatrist and neurologist with more than 40 years of experience. He is now accepting new patients aged 15 and older. To schedule an appointment, visit your Cameron MyChart or call Cameron Psychiatry at 260-667-5635.

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