The coronavirus pandemic would cause the months of confinement, the critical situation experienced in hospitals, duels without parting and the economic crisis to give way to another health crisis, mental health.
Therefore, the coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the need to urgently increase investment in mental health services if the world does not want to risk a drastic increase in mental illness.
Although one of the most important recommendations of health authorities in all countries was social isolation to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, this action can have an emotional impact, according to an alert from the World Health Organization (WHO) .
Isolation means the loss of the usual routine. Whether they are activities at home, work and school, as well as physical and recreational activities, with this there is loss or reduction of social interaction with family and friends and, without a doubt, the limitation of physical contact with other people who surround.
“In the face of these limitations, in the first stage, reactions such as stress, anxiety, and worry and fear of getting sick can bring about feelings of sadness or some sleep problems, and these reactions are totally normal in unusual situations such as the pandemic,” explains to Newsweek Mexico Adrián Cantú, manager of mental health activity of Médicos Sin Fronteras.
The emotional impact can be aggravated, says the expert, and this happens when these emotions, which initially are a normal and expected response, continue throughout the days and persist, causing difficulty in the development of daily activities.
This impact, in addition, can lead to more serious symptoms such as depression or feelings of hopelessness, sadness, changes in appetite, insomnia or sleeping too much, anxiety, acute stress or even symptoms of post-traumatic stress, anger, annoyance and intense emotional exhaustion.
“All this is going to be seriously reflected in the reactions and behaviors that can put personal, family and social integrity at risk,” Cantú says.
LACK OF SOCIAL CONNECTION
According to a study published in Perspectives on Psychological Science, loneliness and social isolation are twice as detrimental to physical and mental health as obesity.
It may interest you: Florida bans alcohol consumption in bars after rebound in coronavirus cases
“Lack of social connection increases health risks as much as smoking 15 cigarettes a day or having an alcohol use disorder,” explains Brighman Young University doctor of psychology and neuroscience Julianne Holt-Lunstad, who investigates the consequences. Psychological Effects of Social Isolation as a Measure to Avoid Coronavirus Infections.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, for his part, considers that “the effects of the pandemic on mental health are being extremely worrying: social isolation, fear of infection and the death of family members are exacerbated by the anguish that it causes loss of income and jobs. ”
Coronavirus is a significant psychological stressor, in addition, it has a great impact on all facets of life and organization of people in practically all social and economic sectors of the world.
According to expert studies, COVID-19 is a major source of worldwide psychological distress.
Fear of disease, death, and uncertainty about the future precipitate anxiety and stress-related disorders, so globally calls are increasingly being made to create and disseminate robust mental health screening and treatment programs. for the general public and front-line healthcare workers, researchers from the University and the Copenhagen Center for Mental Health explain in a study titled Are we facing a wave of neuropsychiatric sequelae from COVID-19?
“This pandemic is a potential source of direct and indirect trauma for all, which is further emphasized by disturbing reports of cases of suicide deaths related to fear of contracting or spreading COVID-19.”
An increase in mental illnesses and relapses is seen in people with problems associated with the pandemic since, during this, many have lost their jobs, others have felt loneliness and others have been affected by routine changes, according to the president of the Spanish Society of Psychiatry (SEP) and director of the Institute of Psychiatry of the Gregorio Marañón Hospital in Madrid, Dr. Celso Arango.
Meanwhile, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) points out that fear, worry, and stress are normal responses at a time when society faces uncertainty, the unknown, or situations of change or crisis. So it is normal and understandable for people to experience these feelings in the context of the pandemic.
OTHER EFFECTS OF SOCIAL ISOLATION
Dr. Lorena Rodríguez Bores, technical secretary of the National Council of Mental Health, explains that the effects of spending long periods at home can be tired and fatigue, change in eating patterns and weight gain due to inactivity.
To these are added a feeling of physical and mental slowness, boredom and boredom, discouragement to carry out common activities and irritability and anger.
In addition, according to the specialist, other effects are alerts to physical signs about the possibility of becoming infected (paranoia), feeling of not doing something productive and feeling of injustice (expressions such as “why should I be isolated?”).
INCREASE IN SYMPTOMS OF DEPRESSION AND ANXIETY
According to reports taken up by the UN, there is an increase in symptoms of depression and anxiety in several countries.
Some population groups, it is explained, may be more likely to suffer psychological discomfort generated in the context of COVID-19, such as front-line health professionals, who face an overload of work, the risk of contagion and the need to take life or death decisions.
In China, for example, high rates of depression (50 percent), anxiety (45 percent), and insomnia (34 percent) have been reported in healthcare personnel, and in Canada, 47 percent of healthcare professionals health have reported that they need psychological support.
Another risk group are children and adolescents. In Italy and Spain, parents explain that their children have difficulty concentrating and suffer from irritability, restlessness and nervousness.
In a UK study that included young people who have needed to be seen for mental health services in the past, 32 percent of the sample agreed that the pandemic had greatly worsened their mental health.
Mental health experts indicate that another cause for concern is increased consumption of alcoholic beverages. Statistics obtained in Canada indicate that 20 percent of the population aged 15 to 49 years have used these substances mostly during the pandemic.
ANGUISHED BY WRONG INFORMATION
According to UN data, before the COVID-19 pandemic depression and anxiety were already costing the world economy more than a trillion dollars a year.
“During the emergency caused by COVID-19, people are afraid of infection, of dying and of losing their families,” explain the recommendations of the United Nations.
“At the same time, large numbers of people have lost or are at risk of losing their livelihoods, have been socially isolated and separated from their loved ones, and in some countries have been subjected to orders of home confinement, which they have applied drastically. “
Another major cause of anguish is misinformation about the virus and prevention measures, deep uncertainty about the future, along with the fact that “knowing that people may not have the opportunity to say goodbye to loved ones and celebrate them a funeral, a situation that contributes to further increasing distress. “
Global data would seem to confirm this increased mental vulnerability, said the director of the WHO Department of Mental Health and Substance Use, Dévora Kestel, citing surveys showing an increase in the feeling of anxiety in 35 percent of the population surveyed in China, 60 percent in Iran and 45 percent in the United States.
Stress, social isolation, and family violence are likely to affect brain health and development in young children and adolescents, and reduced physical activity and decreased intellectual stimuli increase the risk of cognitive decline and dementia in older adults is added.
DEALING WITH SOCIAL ISOLATION
As the confinement decreases, the possibility of contagion also generates loneliness. In an article published by the Observatory of Educational Innovation of the Tec de Monterrey, Elizabeth Dorrance Hall, director of the Laboratory of Communication and Family Relations, points out that “the advantage is that now we are more equipped than ever to maintain social relations at a distance, since technology helps people stay close even in times of physical distance. “
In order not to lose communication between family and friends, Dr. Dorrance recommends video calls. “They are a great tool to keep us connected and feel close despite the distance, since the video allows us to see the non-verbal behavior of the other person, gestures that chat or voice message could not be perceived ”.
Meanwhile, the doctor Adrián Cantú, from Médicos Sin Fronteras, recommends that in order to face isolation in the first place, you must be aware that an essential function full of meaning is fulfilled, that is, you collaborate to prevent other people from getting sick , their lives are being saved and, at the same time, their own health is protected.
“Emotions must be recognized and accepted, and it is also important that they are shared with a trusted person. Avoid saturating yourself with information and look for reliable sources. You must also choose certain times of the day to stay informed, establish a daily routine and maintain a structure in which everyone is in control of what they do and when they do it. ”
Diet is also important, as is drinking enough water, Cantú says. “Rest will be necessary and also take time to pamper yourself. A schedule for sleeping and getting up should be established. ”
The specialist recommends that other activities are carried out, such as learning a language, reinforcing knowledge or skills at work and doing some crafts, as well as exercising physically.
Deep breathing or meditation are also important to rest your mind from worries. All of these activities can help to cope with the consequences of isolation, which, in addition to preventing infections, also reduces possible deaths from coronavirus.
Gallery: Alzheimer’s: How To Better Understand This Incurable Disease (StarsInsider)