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A day in the life of a mental health professional during the COVID-19 pandemic

"I think we are going to see more mental health issues arise because of this whole coronavirus pandemic."

“I think we are going to see more mental health issues arise because of this whole coronavirus pandemic.”

*The title of Dr. Biuckians has been corrected from psychologist to psychiatrist. We regret the error*

Dr. Adam Biuckians, a child and adolescent psychiatrist and the medical director at Community Services Group, typically sees about 25 patients in a day. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, his number of patients has not changed drastically, but the way he meets with them has.

“For the last four months, essentially, there has been minimal to no in-person interaction with our patients,” he said. “We’ve done everything virtually — either through video conferencing or, for patients that don’t have access or good access to internet and video chat just isn’t working, we’ll just do it the old-fashioned telephone way.”

Biuckians said there are limitations to telehealth services. He doesn’t believe virtual services will ever completely replace in-person visits, but he said telehealth will play a larger role in mental health services when the pandemic is over. He said this experience has made clear one benefit of virtual care: being able to maintain connections with patients who have difficulty getting to a provider’s office.

“You know, sometimes patients have a certain resistance to coming to the office, whether it be severe anxiety or just kind of a hesitance,” Biuckians said. “It’s easier for them to get on a video chat. It feels safer to them. They’re in their home environment, that kind of thing. And so, I think we’re able to reach a broader audience.”

In the future, he said he believes access to mental health services will become an even greater challenge than it was before the pandemic.

“I think across the board, the longer that this goes on, that uncertainty naturally creates a lot of anxiety. We do know that that puts people at more risk for having longer term mental health issues, anxiety disorders or depressive disorders,” Biuckians said. “And so, I guess that would be one of my main concerns, is that the longer that this goes on, I think we are going to see more mental health issues arise because of this whole coronavirus pandemic. And accessibility is going to be more of an issue because we were already struggling to meet the demand prior to this. So, I see that as a potential problem on the horizon that we’re going to have to address.”

Keira McGuire
Keira McGuire

Keira McGuire is a health reporter and multimedia producer for WITF. She hosts and produces Transforming Health television programs as well as other shows and documentaries for WITF’s Original Productions. McGuire produced the Emmy Award winning series HealthSmart for the last ten years. Keira previously worked at WBFF in Baltimore and WMDT in Salisbury as a reporter and anchor. She’s a graduate of Towson University.

Read more by Keira McGuire