‘We’re in this together’; Fort Wayne doctor shares thoughts on mental health during the pandemic


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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – 2020, a year full of challenges, health concerns, division and unique events. Mental health plays a role in many people’s lives this year. WANE 15’s Breann Boswell spoke with Smitha Patibandla, MD, a psychiatrist on the medical staff at St. Joseph Hospital who reminds those facing anxiety that they are not alone.

75% of the population has seen impacts from the global pandemic. Dr. Patibandla has seen more than a 50% increase in patients based off of baseline data.

“Each and every one of us it at high risk,” Dr. Patibandla says. Frontline workers, essential workers and first responders are at a higher risk to develop anxiety. Some of those include doctors, nurses, and people who work in hospitals and are in contact daily with COVID patients. Not only are they managing their own emotional pain, but also taking care of others who are dealing with the same hardships.

“Seeing how anxious I felt coming to work on a daily basis knowing that I’m one of the frontline workers and could be exposed to it, I frequently remind patients that we are in this together,” she says.

“I don’t think we will ever see, hopefully nothing like this, again in our lifetime. We just heard about these things happening in history but it’s such a global thing.” Dr. Pantibandla has researched and read that it will take about three years to have the complete data about how it has affected the human kind in all kinds of ways. “It’s not a comprehensive assessment yet because this is an ongoing process,” she says. She continues, “Many factors play a role in finding this data including physical health, emotional health, and productivity. We have more answers now compared to six months ago.”

Dr. Patibandla says she hasn’t seen the election playing a role as much as the COVID-19 pandemic. “Anything that is uncertain and anything we can’t control tends to make us anxious. These really are tough times and I don’t think the country has ever been so divided like it is right now,” she says.

Holidays this year might look different than most. Patibandla encourages those who are struggling to meet with family online if possible, send gifts, and do whatever it takes to communicate and be in touch with loved ones throughout the holidays. “Come next year, hopefully we will be there, I personally can’t go see my mom in India so I get it, I understand how difficult it is,” Patibandla says.

Tips that can help with anxiety include simply taking care of yourself and your body:

  • Eating well-balanced meals
  • Ensuring you are getting enough sleep (adults need 7-9 hours of sleep a night)
  • Exercising daily (30 minutes per day is recommended)
  • Take a time-out when needed (find a quiet place, take deep breaths, and clear your mind)

There are resources not only in Allen County including those at St. Joseph Hospital, but resources those in need can use no matter the location.

National resources include:

Use these resources below to find a health care provider for treatment for mental health:

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