The Journal Gazette
Monday, May 24, 2021 1:00 am

Five questions for Dr. Jay Fawver

Psychiatrist, Parkview Health

1 As we begin to emerge from the coronavirus pandemic, what have you and other mental health experts learned about its effects on people?

I have marveled at the creative ingenuity and resiliency that most people courageously demonstrated during the pandemic, despite drastic change (the definition of “stress”). However, many people lost loved ones and endured the expected grief, and the pandemic's social isolation acted as an accelerant to simmering, preexisting mood and anxiety disorders and fearfulness. Some anesthetized this anxiety with alcohol, marijuana, opiates and other drugs of abuse.


2 Has the pandemic led to some of those challenges in people who might not have been struggling with them before?

We continue to study and address the lingering mental health aftereffects demonstrated by a small percentage of people who contracted the COVID-19 infection and continue to see side effects (called “long haulers”) due to its direct impact on the brain. Others have developed various fears that have led to persistent generalized apprehension about the future and an awareness of their own mortality.

I'm also very concerned about a separate, previously “healthy” population who experienced unemployment during the pandemic. A lack of daily productivity and structured activity is not only a thief of time, it's a predictor of deteriorating mental health.


3 You host a PBS program called “Matters of the Mind,” where viewers can call in. Have many of the calls involved COVID-19? If so, what are some of the most common questions?

Last spring, PBS and “Matters of the Mind” devoted several weeks of programs specifically to mental health issues related to restrictions and apprehension stemming from the pandemic. More recently, many of the viewer questions pertain to the anxiety related to the COVID-19 vaccine and the mental health aftereffects of the COVID-19 infection. As a physician who specializes in psychiatry, I attempt to address these questions within the scope of my medical practice.

4 What kinds of mental health challenges might stick with us after the pandemic is over?

As a society, many people will experience lingering social apprehension, leading to an aftershock of social isolation, another key predictor of mental health deterioration, and the inevitable consequences of limited interpersonal support.


5 How should people seek help if they need it?

Mental health treatment is warranted if you experience the inability to adapt, which may cascade to anxiety, insomnia, irritability, poor concentration, depression and “giving up,” leading to a struggle in addressing your daily needs and interacting with friends and family. Your primary care health care professional can typically refer you to a trusted mental health care resource in your area for counseling and/or medication treatment.

If you need direction to resources, call the Parkview Behavioral Health Institute's HelpLine at 260-373-7500 or 1-800-284-8439.

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