Fear, worry, and stress are normal responses to perceived or real threats. At times of extreme economic uncertainty, the COVID-19 pandemic has served to exacerbate the mental health crisis in America further. America’s infrastructure for mental health and addiction services was already fragmented, overburdened, and underfunded, and the pandemic has only further compounded these issues. As a practicing psychiatrist, Maninderpal Singh Dhillon D.O. understands the anxiety, fear, and worry that everyone is feeling right now, and hopes to be able to make a change.
Born in Edison, New Jersey, Dr. Maninderpal Singh Dhillon attended Michigan State University for twelve years. He graduated from his undergraduate studies with a double major in Human Biology and Psychology, going on to complete medical school and a four-year psychiatry residency. Today, his scope of medicine involves initial evaluations for diagnosing and treating psychiatric illnesses. In addition, Dr. Maninderpal Dhillon assists in acute crises where he conducts risk assessments and disposition planning. Dr. Maninderpal Singh Dhillon practices as a psychiatrist with the understanding that mental health is as important as physical health.
Why did you become a Psychiatrist?
Mental health is health. I have always felt passionate about serving a community that has often been overlooked and misunderstood. Psychiatry is in great demand right now. Thousands of people requiring immediate assistance are waiting 3+ months to see a psychiatrist, which in some cases, can be the difference between life and death. I have always wanted to be able to help people in a deep and meaningful way. Additionally, I love that I get to be a specialist in one field of medicine, really getting to know the specifics of diagnoses and treatment. Despite the stress and anxiety of COVID-19, telepsychiatry, and being able to see patients in remote and rural settings who wouldn’t have access otherwise has been an incredible experience.
What advice do you have for future Psychiatrists?
First and foremost: incorporate therapy into all medication reviews. It is important to understand and develop a plan which recognizes that the mind, body, and spirit are three parts of a greater whole. As a psychiatrist, I am dedicated to my craft, reading new studies, books, and articles every day. My advice to future psychiatrists is to ensure you understand psychopharmacology well and stay up-to-date on new medical frontiers. Medicine is a field that is rapidly changing, and it is important to be on the cutting edge of these innovations and breakthroughs to serve our patients best.
How has Covid-19 impacted your daily commitments to patients?
COVID-19 has deeply impacted my practice. I have been seeing patients through Zoom appointments for initial psychiatric evaluations and with telephone medication reviews. Technology has been difficult for many of the patients, so there have been more no-shows than usual. However, I am grateful for the technological resources we do have—this would not have been possible even a few years ago. Many of the patients do not have telemedicine features, so they often have to be rehearsed prior to appointment, which requires some additional patience from both parties. In addition, many of my patients have had to switch from long-acting injectables to oral medication while the injection clinic has been closed. And lastly, of course, it has been difficult to get lab work done given the restrictions.
How has being a Psychiatrist changed you?
Becoming a psychiatrist has changed every aspect of my life. Not only am I more aware of my own emotions and mental well-being, but I have learned that if you can change the way you think about something, anything is possible. We spend so little time engaging with the thoughts in our minds that we allow the default script of self-doubt, fear, and judgment to take over. Until you start to engage with this dialogue and become an active participant, nothing is going to change. Being a psychiatrist has also equipped me with the tools necessary to help my family and friends participate in mindfulness and brain exercises. While helping my patients brings me a deep sense of fulfillment, being able to help my loved ones is the ultimate gift of psychiatry.
Lastly, being a psychiatrist has taught me how to closely correlated physical health and mental health care. Your sleep, appetite, exercise, and overall well-being can have a major impact on your mental health. Additionally, depression can reduce your sleep and appetite and leave you feeling lethargic. The two have a very close relationship, and it is important always to consider both as intrinsically connected.
Do you have any advice for our readers?
Above all else, be brave when it comes to talking about your mental health. Mental health is just as important as physical health. Reach out for help if you are struggling. If you do not have a support system, there are many 24/7 hotlines and groups in the community. Most community programs provide access to mental health supports—even to the uninsured. Remember: nothing is braver than seeking help.
Next, do what is best for you. In my practice, I have observed that in many cases, the best treatment is a combination of medication and therapy, but this will be dependent on your specific diagnosis. If you are on medication and attend therapy, it is important to stay compliant with medications. Lastly, learning about healthy coping mechanisms, in addition to medication, to deal with your mood and mental illness will aid in long-term sustainable recovery.
How do you remain positive?
It is not easy to stay positive, especially in such divisive and difficult economic times. However, it is always beneficial to look for opportunities whenever there are doubt and fear. One of the first things I turn to in times of hardship is mindfulness. Mindfulness means different things for different people, but for me, it means sitting in silence, focusing on the present moment, and not stressing about the past or future. Utilizing your five senses during this exercise is key. It is important to be in healthy environments, around supportive friends and family, and partake in hobbies that you enjoy. I have also found that separating my work and home life has been crucial.
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