5 Questions with Dr. George Eliopulos

May 14th, 2020


George Eliopulos, MD is Mental Health Partners Medical Director. A psychiatrist, he has worked at MHP for more than 25 years. During this time, he has worked side-by-side with staff to address the behavioral health needs of thousands of clients.  He comments, “What often starts as an assessment and treatment of  a “problem” often evolves into witnessing patients and families finding their strengths and taking more and more steps to recovery”. 

Dr. E, as he is known, graduated from the University of Wyoming and received his medical degree from the Utah School of Medicine. He enjoys skiing, hiking and spending time with his grown children.

01. How do you see the COVID-19 pandemic impacting the mental health of entrepreneurs?

There is a lot of conflicting information being circulated about the COVID-19 pandemic. That creates stress. What should I believe? I think entrepreneurs need to understand that that are two competing forces at work right now. 

First, COVID-19 is a virus that humans are not used to. It is here to stay. We cannot wish it away. Slowly (if we are doing things correctly) it will make its way through the entire population. We will know loved ones and friends that are infected. We ourselves will likely get infected and some of us will not fare well. That is an incredibly stressful concept to grasp. None of us want to believe it. But  mother nature does not care if we believe it or not. COVID-19 is going to do what it will do!

That in and of itself is stressful. 

The other force at play is the concept that we must keep the economy open as much as possible. Shutting things down too much has its own detrimental effect.  We must strive to go back to some sense of normalcy. There is truth to this idea. But also, there is the powerful human wish to deny the first truth. That COVID-19 is real and will change our lives. 

Navigating this is scary. Stressful. We are likely wracked with fear, anxiety, anger, depression, doubt and so on. 

We are alive during the latest human catastrophe. We are not the first. The human animal is master at navigating through this. Before now there were other pandemics, wars, famine, economic catastrophes, political turmoil. Humans sort it out and move through it. THAT is why we are such a successful species. We are good at this, but it feels terrible at times. 

The entrepreneur possibly feels tremendous anxiety, depression,, loneliness, isolation, fear, anger. All of these reactions are normal. 

The entrepreneur needs to be impeccable in self care at this point and consider how their talents can be used to solve the problems that this crisis is creating. 

Watch Dr. E., other mental health experts, and entrepreneurs discuss mental health challenges for founders in these videos.

02. What advice do you have for entrepreneurs to help their mental health right now?

Remember that this will pass. But follow the science of the pandemic. We may be looking at life being altered for the next year or two. Maybe longer. Not the next few months! 

Holding hopes out for a rapid return to normal will be demoralizing. So, follow the science. Not the hopeful wishes. 

Look for how you can use your talents to help society with moving through this crisis. Remember that every crisis is pregnant with opportunity. 

Be impeccable in self care. Keep a regular schedule. Get enough sleep. Bathe daily. Eat well as much as possible. Exercise. Don’t pivot to alcohol or other substances to cope. Keep in contact with friends and family. Use zoom, facebook. Have those social meetings. We are PHYSICAL  distancing but not SOCIAL distancing. Decide who you are going to have close contact with.  Family. A few close friends. A significant other. Prayer, meditate. 

Adhere to social distancing when out in public. Wear masks. Wash your hands. 

If feeling too depressed, too anxious, too moody, suicidal or other mental health symptoms, seek treatment. Mental health treatment is almost always a treatment modality that can be done remotely. 

03. What are some signs of depression that entrepreneurs can watch for, and what should they do if they think they’re depressed?

This was discussed in question 3 above. I think the additional idea that I would add is that hard driving individuals tend to fall prey to the concept that they need to be different. “I can do this!” “I am willing to do what others are not willing to do, that is why I am successful!” “I will muscle my way through this and because I am so tough (or so smart, or so hard working, or so brilliant, or whatever) I will succeed. 

The entrepreneur may tend to deny their own humanity. We are vulnerable. If we do not pay attention to our limits we will become too stressed. Too much stress can lead to depression as well as other problems including relationship problems, health problems, substance abuse problems and other health problems. 

04.  What’s one thing you’re doing to help your mental wellness during the pandemic? 

One thing? There is never one thing to care for yourself. One must dedicate time and energy daily. I’m in this for the long run. I’m running a marathon. Not a sprint and I want to run it well!

Leave no doubt. The COVID-19 crisis for me at times has been stressful. Scary. I have felt overwhelmed. Depressed. Anxious, Angry. Exhausted.

All of this is normal during a crisis. But this is my crisis. One that will likely be remembered for generations to come. 

So, I am doing many things. Getting to bed on time. Eating well (which takes planning and work). No sweets. Limiting alcohol. Daily exercise, even if it is only 10 minutes. Daily prayer and meditation. Daily contact with friends and loved ones. Making sure I spend quality time with select loved ones. Saying “no!” I am also engaged in my own personal therapy exploring how I want the next chapter of my life to look like. I am now seeing my therapist remotely because of COVID-19. 

Dr. E found the time to answer four questions for us today.