“the real nightmare is when I wake up,” says a doctor

AFP, published on Friday April 10, 2020 at 8:17 am

Wisely sitting in an amphitheater of the university hospital of Tor Vergata, in the outskirts of Rome, a dozen doctors and nurses masked in white coats have their eyes closed and hold their breath.

“Now you can breathe out”, launches in a soft voice from her desk Professor Cinzia Niolu, who closes a relaxation session for this medical staff on the front line facing the coronavirus, with the heavy task of following patients positive for the within the intensive care unit.

This little moment of relaxation helps relieve the tension accumulated during the hour-long session, dispensed by this little woman with a strong temper to allow her to face the anxieties linked to the virus.

“The participants are exposed to the object that scares them, (…) suddenly their level of anxiety increases, which is why a period of relaxation is planned,” summarizes the psychiatrist for AFP.

At the beginning of the session, a questionnaire is given to each participant: “What is your level of worry about the current situation?”, “Are you afraid of being infected?”, “Are you worried about your loved ones?” , “Has the quality of your sleep been affected?” … Then the questions are taken one by one and everyone can speak to share their experiences.

Installed in the last row of the amphitheater with duck blue armchairs, Emanuela Bertinelli, a nurse with large expressive eyes emerging above her mask, wonders: “How are we going to live tomorrow? It is my greatest fear, uncertainty about the future. This is something that I live badly because we have no certainty, we do not know if it will end and when. “

– Russell Crowe –

Emanuela is also anxious about the plans for the gradual lifting of containment measures on the peninsula: “All people will start to go out again, because people are made like this, and they will all re-contaminate each other, and for the second time, we will be forced to stay here doing our work, to risk continually falling ill, to continue to be separated from our families. “

She is visibly relieved to be able to express herself within the framework of this short but intense session, which allows “to face crisis and stressful situations, of which the Covid-19 pandemic is a part”, explains the man who is originally, Professor Alberto Siracusano, Director of the Department of Psychiatry and Clinical Psychology at the Hospital of Tor Vergata.

On the large screen of the amphitheater are projected two images symbol of resilience: the actor Russell Crowe in his role of “Gladiator” and a young bird bravely facing a snowstorm.

For Professor Siracusano, this technique of “collective psychological debriefing”, normally used in theaters of war or during natural disasters such as earthquakes, makes it possible to “increase individual and group resilience” in the face of a crisis unprecedented, which has already killed more than 18,000 people in Italy.

“We must not be afraid of fears, we must face them,” insists this elegant academic in a black tie, while readjusting thin glasses on his clear eyes.

Despite his academic background, Alberto Siracusano readily admits that he himself does not escape collective psychosis, enumerating the causes of the ambient stress: “changes in habits, rhythm of life, schedules, contacts with others , being separated, not being able to be close to each other … ”

To the point of having nightmares? “I can tell you that the real nightmare is when I wake up,” he confesses. “During my sleep, personally, I am calm,” he said with a smile.

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