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Baton Rouge General offers post-recovery support services for COVID survivors

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BATON ROUGE – According to Louisiana's Department of Health, about 149,640 residents have recovered from novel coronavirus since the outbreak began this year.

While reports of physical recovery are encouraging, for many survivors, this physical recovery is only the initial step in a journey to fully restored health. 

After successfully battling the virus so as to move out of quarantine and return to work, a number of patients report that their battle continues emotionally.

This is often the case for the sickest of the sick who required time in the ICU and intubation. These patients may face "post-intensive care syndrome" (PICS) that could manifest as a combination of physical, cognitive, and mental health impairments following an ICU stay for a critical illness.

This is why Baton Rouge General (BRG) has started a 'Coping After COVID' support group for survivors who are struggling to get back to normal life, as lingering symptoms and months of illness can contribute to anxiety and depression.

“It’s tough dealing with the lingering physical symptoms and their aftermath, from the disruption of work routines and lack of social interaction, to financial stress and even skepticism from family and friends,” said Shannon Ragusa, executive director of behavioral health services at BRG. “Add in feelings of loneliness, anxiety and depression, and it can really take a toll on the mind as well as the body.”

“Coping After COVID” provides a safe, supportive environment for COVID survivors to share their experiences and coping tools, and it gives them a means to exchange tips for managing both mental and physical symptoms.

As the pandemic continues with nearly 7 million people contracting COVID across the U.S., a new term has been coined to describe people experiencing lasting effects of the virus: “long-haulers.”

Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine estimate that between one-third and one-half of COVID-19 patients experienced some form of mental health problem including anxiety, depression, fatigue or abnormal sleeping.

Online support groups have popped up with thousands of 'long-haulers' sharing their experiences. A survey of more than 1,500 “long-hauler” patients through one Facebook group found a number of common psychological symptoms, like anxiety, difficulty concentrating and sadness.

“Often times we find that just the validation itself – hearing that you’re not alone – is helpful for many people,” Ragusa added.

The mental health effects of the pandemic have been felt even among those without COVID-19 infections. A CDC report in June found that symptoms of anxiety and depression tripled nationwide between April and June compared with the same period last year.

The weekly session is led by an experienced therapist in a socially distanced group setting at BRG’s Behavioral Wellness Center, just a couple of blocks from the Mid City campus at 4045 North Blvd., Suite A. Registration is required.

For more information on BRG's 'Coping After COVID' program, click here.

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