Monday 6th April 2020
Translated into English by Gareth Thomas from original story by Victoria Bueno in Información de Alicante.
(Translator’s note: at the beginning of the translated article it should be emphasised more that the study initially analyses data from the observation of existing clients of the mental health service. It then goes on to make broader points about the effect on the general population. )
Specialists from the Hospital de Sant Joan and Department of Clinical Medicine of the UMH* measure the effects of enforced isolation to plan solutions
The Psychiatry service of the Sant Joan University Hospital, with the support of the Department of Clinical Medicine of the *Miguel Hernández University of Elche, has launched a project to detect the risk of disorders generated by the confinement forced by the pandemic and to be able to plan possible solutions.
From the outset, they warn that the trend points to indices that could well echo those measured last month in China, with rates of stress of the population of 70% and depression of 50% registered, as well as 44% of anxiety and 34% insomnia.
Dr. Lorena García refers in turn to the well-known consequences of other serious epidemics such as the H5N1 in Hong Kong in 1997, the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone in 2014 or the SARS outbreak in 2003. “All of them were accompanied by an increase in psychiatric pathology, especially anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress,” says the expert psychiatrist.
In anticipation of these triggers, specialists from the Sant Joan hospital together with experts from the Miguel Hernández University (UMH) have decided to measure what happens in psychiatric emergencies, and have designed a “simple survey” open to the entire population.
They aim to detect and measure both acute stress and anxiety and depression symptoms, the disorders that are more likely as a consequence of confinement in the current circumstances.
(Translator’s note: I have put a hot link to the actual survey. You can access it here – naturally it is in Spanish! – and it is well worth even doing the survey yourself as a self-health check. Who can say at this moment, “I haven’t got time for that!”)
“Our goal is to measure these acute stress and anxiety and depression symptoms, so that we can subsequently design an appropriate approach plan,” says the doctor.
On the other hand, and as the president of the association of family doctors, María Ángeles Medina, recently warned, anxiety and anguish begin to take their toll even in people without previous disorders and, of course, among health workers: those who now bear the greatest weight of responsibility for keeping those affected alive.
“We are going to evaluate what is happening and once we have the still-photo of the situation we will propose the implementation of a plan to tackle the new pathologies that accompany the crisis, because the demands are going to change,” Dr. García explains.
The psychiatrists predict that there will be an avalanche of people who have never been treated before but who are going to be powerless to handle the situation, hence the interest in measuring the situation and having some prevention in place to address it in time.
One in four people at risk for mental disorder
The initial interest of the project, which was born with a focus on the risks of confinement for people with mental illnesses, has expanded significantly towards health professionals, now among the population most vulnerable to suffering mental disorders due to the pressure they suffer on a daily basis, along with the rest of the general population.
The purpose is to keep the measurements for six months “because it’s the time it takes to become post-traumatic,” experts say, while warning that about one in four people will have a mental illness throughout their lives.