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VIDEO: Mental Health Expert Discusses Ways to Cope and Concern for Most Vulnerable and Elderly During COVID-19 Crisis

NEW YORK (77 WABC) — Another real aspect of the coronavirus is how isolation and uncertainty is making millions of people anxious. It’s serious enough that Governor Cuomo set up an Emotional Support Hotline at 1-844-863-9314.

Dr. Frank Ghinassi, President and CEO, Rutgers Health University Behavioral Health Care, told, the feelings people are having are not unique. He’s most concerned about those who already start with “an isolated baseline.”

That means keeping an eye on populations that are somewhat isolated, such as the elderly, especially who lost a spouse.

“We’re paying special attention to those groups,” Ghinassi said.

Ghinassi worries that older people who are isolated are not tech savvy and missing opportunities to stay connected on video conference platforms like Zoom (as seen above).

By contrast for the millennials, Ghinassi, who is also the Senior Vice President, Behavioral Health and Addictions Service Line, RWJBarnabas Health, said, “Instagram, before was just a diversion, [now] may in fact be their only contact. This collective sense of isolation is pervading.”

There’s a specific focus by Ghinassi to take extra care of the millions of people who already suffer from mental illness. There are several options for patients, including traditional in-person appointments for the most severe cases with personal protective equipment (PPE).  People are also evaluated at emergency screening centers using PPE.

But much of the out-patient treatment is via Zoom or other video platforms, like FaceTime.

“When all else fails, for people who are in socio-economically under privileged areas and they may only have access to a telephone, we’re doing a lot of out-patient treatment now through daily contacts and phone calls–15 to 20 minute check-ins and chats.”

Everyone can find ways to put themselves in a calmer place. The simplest thing people can do to support each other is call or video chat with friends or family, especially those you haven’t been in contact with recently.

“You’re going to find that these times provide many shared experiences,” Ghinassi said.

He also points to alleviating stress with mediation techniques. He said people can google “relaxation and breathing techniques” to help clear the mind through the day.

It’s also a good chance to use the sheltering with family to have activities with the family.

“It sounds a little 1940s, but this is the time to break out those board games, because what they do is serve as a mediator for family discussions,” Ghinassi suggested.


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