Mental health issues on the rise for many people in Burlington according to hospital chief

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Published October 8, 2021 at 12:02 pm

Sunday, Oct. 10, is World Mental Health Day but a local doctor wants to make sure the needs close to home are being met.

Dr. Steven Selchen is Chief of Psychiatry at Joseph Brant Hospital and he recognizes the fact COVID-19 has placed an extra burden on many people.

“Even before the pandemic, the awareness around mental health was growing,” said Selchen, who’s been at Jo Brant for five years.

“With the increased stress involved with isolation, or being with other people more than usual, we’ve seen an exponential increase in Burlington people needing help.”

And getting help sooner rather than later is one of the key things Selchen is focusing on.

“The biggest challenge we have is getting patients in to see the right clinician in a timely way. One of the ways we’re doing that is by working with local agencies to eliminate wait times.”

When a person in crisis goes to the hospital, that might not be the right place for them, but getting everyone where they need to be remains a challenge. And the longer the wait, the more resources it takes to deal with mental health issues.

“Don’t wait,” said Selchen. “If you’re concerned, start with your family doctor. We’ll partner with you and them to get you the proper level of service.”

Selchen said he’d rather support people when the need is lighter.

“It allows us to help more people. Please don’t wait to get help to the last minute.”

Selchen said the mental health industry has seen a rise in stress and negative coping mechanisms since the pandemic took hold.

“It can be as simple as someone who used to go to the gym, but it’s closed. They don’t look elsewhere for exercise. They’re working at home, so they’re less active in general. All of these kinds of factors lead to increased anxiety and depression.”

And that’s when some people turn to alcohol or drugs to cope. Chronic illnesses like schizophrenia worsen when stress increases. The medical establishment is seeing more cases of domestic abuse over the last 18 months.

Selchen offered some tips for people who feel they’re suffering from higher levels of stress and depression.

“Remember the fundamentals. Make sure you get enough sleep, watch your diet, get exercise.”

He said depression often takes away people’s desire to do the things they enjoy.

“Schedule activities you enjoy. Sometimes the act of making an appointment makes it more likely to follow through on.”

For many, the routine of getting up, showering, going to the office or workplace has been displaced.

“I hear so many stories of people having back-to-back-to-back video meetings. There are days when the only time you get up from your desk chair is to go to the washroom.”

For more information about the programs and resources available at Joseph Brant Hospital, visit their website.

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