Dr. Daniel Castellanos honored with national psychiatry award

Dr. Daniel Castellanos has been selected by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) as the recipient of its 2020 Simon Bolivar Award.

The award honors a prominent advocate for Hispanics whose work “sensitizes APA membership to the mental health problems and goals of the Hispanic population.” The APA is the world’s largest psychiatric organization with more than 35,000 members.

“I am deeply honored by this recognition. I have spent my career dedicated to the education and training of students and residents as well as providing care to the members of our community. The only way to do great work is to love what you do,” he said.

Castellanos is the Founding Chair of the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Health at the FIU Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine. He also serves as assistant dean for Graduate Medical Education.

He notes that the timing of the award announcement is significant because next month is Mental Health Awareness Month. Additionally, fear and anxiety due to the COVID-19 crisis is having a huge impact on mental health.

“The coronavirus pandemic has become one of the biggest crises in modern history. COVID-19 is seriously affecting our mental health, with half of U.S. adults already reporting high levels of anxiety.” Said Castellanos. “A rise in depression, substance use, loneliness and domestic violence can be expected.”

Castellanos’ team in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health is trying to address this issue among South Florida’s most vulnerable communities. Psychiatry and Behavioral Health faculty are providing services via telehealth to underserved households enrolled in the college’s Green Family Foundation NeighborhoodHELP program. They are providing  direct support to individuals to enhance their resiliency through this crisis and are identifying households at risk for domestic violence and acting to mitigate those risk factors.

A report published this month in JAMA Internal Medicine warns of an “overflow of mental illness that will inevitably emerge from this pandemic,” resulting in a mental health pandemic.