In Depth: Mental Health Awareness Month

Segment One:

Dr. Anil Sharma, Psychiatrist and vice president of the psychiatry department of Dignity Health Northridge joins Hal to discuss whether we seem to be in a mental health crisis.

Dr. Sharma says the pandemic has exacerbated mental health symptoms, both from the stress and uncertainty of the pandemic, and also because people were not keeping up with their appointments and contacts with mental health professionals. He says it was also an issue for medical issues. Dr. Sharma lost his uncle to cancer during the pandemic.

Sharma and Hal discuss the changing terminology being used for mental illness and suicide, Dr. Sharma says it is a good idea and helps to de-stigmatize the disease.

Segment Two:

Dr. Laurel Bear, the founder of Gateway to Success joins Hal as we talk about the effect of the mental health crisis on children.  Bear worked in the Alhambra School District for years. She worked to address the root causes of mental and emotional problems in kids. She believes the COVID pandemic supercharged the mental health issues that have been there all along, and that children suffered from isolation, hopelessness and loss.

Dr. Bear says suicide among young people is increasing. She says a law in California makes everyone who becomes aware that a child has a problem responsible for finding a way to help. She says that we have to instill a sense of normalcy in discussing mental health for both children and adults. It allows children to share, to identify a feeling and to talk about a feeling.

Segment Three:

Hal speaks with Dr. Suman Radhakrishna, with Dignity Health California Hospital, about the phenomenon of long COVID, and neurological symptoms that have been tied to it. 

Dr. Radhakrishna says that if people experience symptoms for four or more weeks they need to be assessed by a physician to address the causes of those symptoms and treat them. She suggests if people are dealing with long COVID that they join a clinical trial to help both themselves and others.

The doctor says it is sometimes difficult to figure out whether symptoms such as brain fog, fatigue, confusion and other mental symptoms are caused by the disease or by stress and fear resulting from having COVID.  She also says that recovery from any illness is also determined by attitude and mental health.

If you or a loved one is feeling distressed, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The crisis center provides free and confidential emotional support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to civilians and veterans. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Or text HOME to 741-741 (Crisis Text Line).

CLICK HERE for the warning signs and risk factors of suicide. Call 1-800-273-TALK for free and confidential emotional support.