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Muhamad Aly Rifai Discusses How Telepsychiatry is Reducing the Stigma Associated with Mental Health 


Muhamad Aly Rifai, MD, is an enterprising Physician Researcher and practicing psychiatrist who is world-renowned for his clinical experience in a unique spectrum of psychiatric, medical, and substance-use disorders. He and his colleagues often have to deal with the societal challenges placed on patients who desire mental health counseling and treatment.

The stigma and discrimination associated with mental health challenges can be enormous in some communities and even in the workplace. But who would have thought that a global pandemic where millions would lose their lives and many more still suffer from long-term COVID-19 symptoms would change the medical patient delivery system so profoundly, for the better?

The emergence of telepsychiatry

According to JAMA:

“The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered a rapid expansion of telepsychiatry. A 2022 study of 126 million patients across all 50 states found that 39% of mental health visits were virtual.”

From the privacy of one’s homes, patients have access to essential mental health care and treatment, and Muhamad Aly Rifai believes that with greater participation comes greater societal acceptance. The American Psychological Association (APA) has released survey results showing that Americans are becoming more open about mental health, with a total of 87% of American adults agreeing that having a mental health disorder is nothing to be ashamed of.

Reducing Mental Health Stigmas Means Greater Participation

Medical professionals know very well the consequences of mental health stigmas that exist within the American population. These attitudes lead to patients who exhibit a decrease in hope, lower self-esteem, and a sometimes profound increase in symptomatology. The fear of rejection imagined or real, and embarrassment are often cited as the main difficulty with social relationship challenges.

But, with the skyrocketing use of telepsychiatry, patients that once found it difficult to seek mental health treatment, including the rural population, children and young adults, those with disabilities, and working professionals, are now able to take advantage of the convenience, privacy, and reduced costs of being treated for mental illness or substance abuse.

Other ways mental health stigmas are being erased

Muhamad Aly Rifai has witnessed firsthand the increase in patients seeking help for general depression, anxiety, and substance abuse disorders. Some may have found themselves struggling to deal with the loneliness and isolation that was caused by social distance requirements to reduce the spread of Covid. But, for many others, Muhamad Aly Rifai believes the pandemic only bought out existing mental health challenges that were exacerbated when there were fewer ways to shift our attention.

Some credit can also be given to popular celebrities who openly express their challenges of coping with mental illness. These self-confessions make it easier for the general population to accept mental health challenges in themselves, family, friends, coworkers, and management.

There is an unquestionable outpouring of concern and hope for people like Demi Lovato, Ryan Reynolds, Britney Spears, Brad Pitt, and Chrissy Teigen, who suffer a range of mental health challenges that include postpartum depression, bipolar disorder, general depression, and substance abuse.

It is believed that 1 in 5 adults live with a mental illness, and almost 1 in 25 adults live with a serious mental illness. Muhamad Aly Rifai notes that with the increased use of telemedicine and telepsychiatry, more of these individuals will receive the help that leads to a better quality of life and healthier relationships.

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