It goes without saying that COVID-19 is on the minds of nearly every American. The societal and economic disruption is almost without precedent. As government officials and clinicians wrestle with issues of how to protect the public, there seem to be more questions than answers. The mental health effects of COVID-19 are as important to address as are the physical health effects. Social isolation, school closures, lack of structure, financial difficulties, and unemployment are among the many stressors related to COVID-19 that have significant impacts on mental well-being.
In a national survey conducted by Axios, 29% said their emotional well-being had gotten worse. Chris Walden, co-founder of Ketamine Media, reports that online searches for anxiety treatment, depression treatment and searches pertaining to suicide, have increased at a rapid pace. In addition, Noah Heller, co-founder of MoodMonitor, has noted that the number of patients reporting thoughts of wanting to inflict self-harm via a depression rating tool, the PHQ-9, has significantly increased. Research has shown that suicidal ideation reported on the PHQ-9 was a robust predictor of suicide attempts and deaths. In addition, there is significant literature establishing a strong link between unemployment and higher suicide rates. Many studies have demonstrated the robust and rapid antidepressant and anti-suicidal effects of ketamine, especially in a treatment resistant population. Awareness and access to this valuable treatment will be increasingly important as unprecedented stressors increase the rate of depression and suicide in the coming months.
The American Society of Ketamine Physicians has been at the forefront of advocating for patients who have benefited from this forward-leaning therapy. Ketamine therapy is an essential service that cannot be interrupted during this crisis. “Our patients who suffer from severe depression and suicidality do not suddenly get better just because there is a pandemic. In fact, they are likely to struggle more. Continuing to offer treatment to high risks populations significantly alleviates the additional strain that would otherwise be placed on emergency rooms and urgent care settings,” says Sandhya Prashad, MD, a psychiatrist from Houston and Secretary for ASKP.
Taking appropriate precautions while continuing to treat patients in an outpatient setting is imperative. Evaluating the necessity of treatment for patients beforehand can be beneficial. The use of telemedicine can assist in evaluating and providing ongoing care for patients in less emergent situations. Minimizing contact between patients in waiting rooms, screening patients beforehand for symptoms or contact with others who are ill and thorough cleaning between patients can help to mitigate the risk to patients and staff.
The American Society of Ketamine Physicians is a medical society that embraces the leadership roles of psychiatrists, anesthesiologists, emergency medicine physicians, psychotherapists, advance practice providers and others in the therapeutic use of ketamine. For more information on the American Society of Ketamine Physicians, visit http://www.askp.org.