Media Coverage

Linda F. Pessar, MD, director of the Center for Medical Humanities and professor emeritus of psychiatry, discusses the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health. She covers topics including resilience, symptoms of various mental illnesses, what to do if suicidal thoughts and feelings arise, and how the pandemic might exacerbate symptoms.
Sourav Sengupta, MD, clinical assistant professor of psychiatry, is quoted in an article on the effects stress has on pregnancy. A prolonged stress response can take a toll on your body, according to Sengupta, and, right now, “there’s no way that any of us as adults aren’t at a heightened stress level during this period,” he said. 
Sourav Sengupta, MD, assistant professor of psychiatry, answers questions from people facing COVID-19 on the front-lines — including first responders, health care workers and those in essential businesses. Sengupta discusses ideas and strategies related to areas such as gaining healthy sleep; preventing overexposure to news outlets and news stories; reducing anxieties about exposing family members to COVID-19; and helping retail workers protect themselves when interacting with customers.
The psychological impact of the COVID-19 pandemic can be serious for both adults and children. Sourav Sengupta, MD, assistant professor of psychiatry, answers questions about how the pandemic might affect youths. “It’s important to remember that children can have a variety of responses to these kinds of really challenging situations. It can vary from anything from sadness, to anger, to anxiety. We need to give them some space to really feel that and to express that to us. Sometimes as parents, as adults, we get a little bit uncomfortable when our children express strong emotions, but this is a time when they really need to get it out,” he says.
Stress, which is inescapable during the COVID-19 pandemic, causes harmful physical effects. A Best Life article references a 2009 study — published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology — co-authored by Bruce D. Miller, MD, that examined pathways linking emotional stress, depressive symptoms, autonomic nervous system dysregulation and airway function in childhood asthma. The study showed that depressed children with asthma exhibit a dysregulation of the autonomic nervous system along with increased airway compromise. Miller is a professor of psychiatry and pediatrics.
Michael R. Cummings, MD, assistant professor of clinical psychiatry, is interviewed for a story about the impact of social isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic. He said the shared experiences on a screen don’t have the same impact on people as actual physical contact. “There’s a huge difference. Even from the moment of birth, this is why we have volunteers sit in NICUs and hold babies when their parents aren’t able to. That physical connection is part of our genetics and our makeup.”
Steven L. Dubovsky, MD, professor and chair of psychiatry, provides expertise in an article discussing how the coronavirus pandemic has the potential to make people feel as if they are hypochondriacs. Hypochondriasis, what we typically call hypochondria, can be a serious illness, in which case it consists of “a preoccupation with the idea of being ill and spending so much of your time and effort looking for a diagnosis and treatment that you can’t function normally,” explains Dubovsky. “In more minor forms, hypochondriacal preoccupations are common in all of us when we feel stressed,” he says. His advice to anyone struggling with anxiety about how they physically feel: “Shut off the 24-hour news.” Dubovsky notes that for peace of mind, and for physical well-being, it’s crucial to take precautions including social distancing and proper hand washing.
Dori R. Marshall, MD, associate dean and director of admissions in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, spoke about its admissions process during a Q&A interview. Asked what makes one student a good fit for one medical school over another, she said: “One strength of our school is a collaborative nature. (The students are) not cutthroat. They’re not out to compete with each other. And that’s really a strength.” Marshall is also assistant professor of psychiatry.
A story about a study reporting an increase in alcohol-related deaths in the U.S. interviews Kenneth E. Leonard, PhD, professor of psychiatry and director of UB’s Clinical and Research Institute on Addictions. “An occasional drink or two is not going to be problematic for most people. But among people who are older or on a lot of medications, they really have to be very careful,” said Leonard, who was not involved with the study.
Articles on research which found that people with mental illness get screened for cancer at much lower rates than the general population, quoted Steven L. Dubovsky, MD, professor and chair of psychiatry. Dubovsky, who was not involved with the study, said, “Many patients with severe mental illnesses live in areas with little access to cancer screening centers.”
Research by Kenneth E. Leonard, PhD, professor of psychiatry and director of UB’s Clinical and Research Institute on Addictions, was cited in several articles about alcohol’s effects on marriage. The study showed that if one partner is a heavy drinker and the other is not, these couples were more likely to break up than if both partners had the same drinking habits.
An article about a reporter who did “a relationship detox” this past year cited a UB study that found the divorce rate was nearly 50 percent for couples where only one partner drank heavily. However, the couples were likely to be happier when both partners drink in equal amounts or don’t drink at all. The research was led by Kenneth E. Leonard, PhD, professor of psychiatry and director of the UB Clinical and Research Institute on Addictions.
A news story showing the protective effects of a mother's love highlights findings from two recently published studies, both of which reveal how maternal affection benefits the physical and mental health of infants and adolescents. The first study, by Jennifer Livingston, PhD, associate professor in the School of Nursing, shows that teens who see their mothers as warm and accepting are less likely to enter abusive relationships. The second, by Kai Ling Kong, PhD, assistant professor of pediatrics in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, found that mothers who are more engaged in active play with infants at high risk for childhood obesity may mitigate some obesity risk factors. The story notes that both studies originated with UB’s Clinical and Research Institute on Addictions and with the work of Kenneth E. Leonard, PhD, its director.
Kenneth E. Leonard, PhD, professor of psychiatry and director of the Clinical and Research Institute on Addictions, is quoted in a story on the science of addiction. “There are brain changes that go on with any drug that activates neuroreceptors in the brain that the body will respond to,” Leonard said. “If that happens regularly for long periods of time the brain will change structurally to try to minimize that impact. Then when the drug is no longer there the brain says, ‘Hey what happened? You’ve changed conditions dramatically on me.’”
Kenneth E. Leonard, PhD, professor of psychiatry and director of the Clinical and Research Institute on Addictions, was quoted in in a story that looked at Hollywood insiders and their sobriety efforts. “The opiate epidemic more than anything else has driven home the notion, among a large portion of the general population, that addiction is a disease. In part that’s because a lot of people were given (opioids) as a prescription and then developed a problem,” Leonard says.