The professionals agree: “Our mental health will be affected in some way” The ups and downs of the social, preventive, mandatory and extended quarantine, now, until April 13, branch out. The challenges and threats for the sustainability of the health infrastructure and the resilience of the Argentine economy concentrate the public agenda. In a pandemic that intervenes in every feature of normality and in every daily activity, mental health was crippled.
The National Directorate of Mental Health and Addictions of the Ministry of Health of the Nation issued a series of recommendations. There are 12 in total: keeping social communication alive, promoting empathy and solidarity, talking to children, understanding that it is a transitory situation, releasing the feelings that emerge in these situations, among others. The 11 expressly says “ask for professional support if necessary” “Follow the protection and prevention recommendations provided by health professionals. If all this does not help, consider seeking the support of a mental health professional or an organization linked to mental health ”, he completes.
“It was predictable,” analysts repeat. Forced confinement, exaggerated free time and uninterrupted coexistence led to a demand for distance psychological care.. Seclusion and uncertainty required that consultations not be suspended. But, paradoxically, the isolation measures and the risks of contagion prevented visits to the doctor’s offices. Thus emerged the need for virtual attention to the concerns of patients, old and new, victims of confinement..
Pablo Hirsch He is the director of the Private Center for Psychotherapies (CPP). Face-to-face care involves thousands of patients and professionals, but for several years it has perceived an increasing number of virtual consultations for prepaid and social works that these methodologies adopted. “A few days before the quarantine we perceived two phenomena: on the one hand, many new consultations to find out how to manage in this new situation and, on the other hand, half of the patients who were already on face-to-face treatment decided to continue virtually”. Online treatment cases multiplied by 12 since the beginning of the quarantine. “In the CPP we carry out approximately 800 therapeutic sessions per week. Of which until the first week of March 55 were online sessions. From March 16 until today, we have carried out 656 sessions online, ”Hirsch specified.
For Claudia Borensztejn the experience is new. She is a psychoanalyst physician and director of the Asociación Psicoanalítica Argentina (APA). Infobae He contacted the WhatsApp number that the association published on its official channels. It is a free service line for the community and health professionals. Claudia herself replied. “I am taking charge because the call is constant. The phone is open from nine in the morning until eight at night. It is not a guard, however I attend everything I can. Many simply ask ‘hello, are you there?’ I answer all the messages and When someone asks for a consultation because they feel anxious, confined, nervous, depressed, anxious, I refer them to an important list of professionals who have volunteered.“
Its network is woven from more than 100 professionals. The consultations, he repeats, are free. “We think that in the face of this quarantine we all have to collaborate,” he said. It is a new experience. We have never had anything like this. It occurred to us to help in this way because we know that small group initiatives can be effective. Since the quarantine began I have attended more than 100 calls, many of whom only wanted to know only if we were there, and a referral referral that we call containment, because it is not a treatment, who already has more than sixty contacts made by professionals ”.
Gabriela Martínez Castro She is a specialist in Anxiety Disorders and director of the Center for Specialized Studies in Anxiety Disorders (CEETA). In his experience, demand also grew exponentially: “We are noticing that we have seen a 15% increase in inquiries since quarantine was announced at all of our locations.“ He considered that the reasons for this influx of online sessions are diverse, but they are combined with a common denominator: increased anxiety, and concomitant depression. “Because we agree that no one who is worried can be happy“He asserted. The diagnosis of this type of patient is generalized anxiety disorder. Its essential characteristic, Martínez Castro said, is excessive concern about different topics of daily life, or in this era of pandemic, about the coronavirus, quarantine, confinement and the fear of death.
Hirsch was able to classify the queries received into three categories: fears of going outside and getting infected, problems of convincing another (adolescents and older adults) that they should stay home and issues of coexistence. “These are mainly manifested in crisis of anguish, insomnia, irritability, disorganization, lack of concentration, sadness, feeling of loneliness, couple and family problems“He listed.
Martínez Castro estimated that the topics that the patients expose are a consequence of the coronavirus: quarantine, confinement, coexistence, economic and labor fears, family conflicts, academic and social difficulties. “All this causes people to exacerbate their level of anxiety and end up in these types of disorders.“He explained. The graduate in psychology warned that when existential concerns cannot be tamed by people, physical symptoms begin to manifest: tachycardia, palpitations, sweating, tremors, feeling dizzy, feeling of being disconnected from the body, gastrointestinal problems, irritability, impatience, insomnia, restless sleep, difficulty in attention, concentration and memory, and if this persists in time, the famous panic attacks. “Ultimately, most people who have an anxiety disorder at heart are very afraid of disease, death and suffering,” he analyzed.
The solution is strategic. Experts devise a similar action plan. “Define family and individual coexistence agreements and routines, avoid redundant and negative information, perform some physical activity and recognize strengths of their own and others”, It is Hirsch’s proposal to combat stress and anxiety situations that germinate in quarantine. “We call this physical and social isolation, but not communicative isolation. We tell our patients not to stop talking to their friends, not to be isolated regarding communication“Recommended Dr. Borensztejn, who in turn suggested respecting intimacy spaces within the family environment, adopting an orderly routine with respect for sleep schedules, the use of screens and the consumption of information.
“Isolation and confinement clearly disorganize our psyches“Martinez Castro argued. Therefore, it is necessary to counter the decomposition of normality, of routines with structured and conscious acts. Her recipe for tolerating quarantine and controlling anxiety, bad moods, irritability, and conflict: “The most important thing is not to anticipate the events in a negative way: not to catastrophize the situation. Live in the here and now as much as possible, being fully aware of what is being lived. It is essential to have a routine of physical activity to relieve anxiety and promote the secretion of endorphins, which are hormones that generate pleasure, lower anxiety and increase the feeling of joy. It’s necessary that let’s plan a daily agenda, whether it be fixing things around the house, watching a movie, cooking, playing board games. Try to coordinate with the rest of the family or with whom we are living together how these tasks are going to be distributed. Establish a diet as healthy as possible and fulfill the hygienic sleep, which is eight hours a night. Try not to disassociate ourselves and not get disoriented in time, considering that the confinement leads us to not know very well what day we are on or what time it is: this is how we start flagellating meal times and waking hours. It is important to try to maintain as many virtual connections with our friends and of course keep in mind that this is an emergency situation, something unusual that will happen. We are going to resume our daily activities at some point ”.