Among the many pathologies that the global situation of the pandemic has aggravated, those that impact on the mental health of the population appear prominently and that experts summarize in an important fact: 90% of citizens suffer mental stress.
“There will be a great increase in mental disorders given the exceptional situation ”that the confinement due to Covid-19 has entailed, explains the president of the Spain Mental Health Confederation, Nel González Zapico, warning that the“ most serious is yet to come ”in the context of a second wave of infections by the coronavirus.
He III Study of Health and Vinea de Aegon points out that currently in Spain 6 out of 10 citizens report that they do not take care of their emotional health because, according to González Zapico, “we consider emotional well-being in the past without being aware that without mental health there is no health.
Given this, it should be remembered that 60% of the population indicates that the most important aspect to have a happy life is to enjoy health and emotional well-being. But the available care resources are limited.
The General Council of Psychology indicates that Spain has four times fewer professionals of Psychology in public health than the European average (4 per 100,000 inhabitants compared to 18 per 100,000 in Europe).
In parallel, according to the Confederation, the Spanish Society of Psychiatry (SEP) and the Spanish Association of Neuropsychiatry (AEN) have denounced the uncertainty and stress that difficulties in medical care entail during an epidemic outbreak such as Covid-19 , and have demanded special attention to the emotional support needs of health personnel.
Fear of contagion, family illness and confinement assail the tranquility of citizens
According to the data exposition of Belén González, director of Health of the company, nine out of ten Spaniards declare having suffered stress in the last twelve months, mainly for reasons linked to the coronavirus, either due to fear of personal or family contagion (44.8%) or because of being confined (36.2%). All this has had an impact on the health of the population, increasing the number of people with sleep problems (51.5%), anxiety (50%), irritability or anger (50.9%) and even those who eat more because of guilt stress (28.10%), compared to last year.
This study shows that a significant percentage of the population claims to have experienced stress and anxiety, and even sadness, during the period of confinement. In this sense, women and generations Z and millennials have experienced more negative feelings. Specifically, the period of confinement has caused stress in 22% of the population and sadness or decline in 21%.
Other sources, such as the latest Cigna study, ‘Covid-19 Global Impact’, belonging to its annual report ‘360º Wellbeing Survey 2020’, explain that 79% of Spaniards claim to be stressed, 15 points more than the data obtained during the months of confinement (64%).
This insurer reports that personal finances are the main cause of stress, with 40%. A concern that, as with the general data, has also been increased with the relaxation of the measures to contain the pandemic, since this percentage in April was 25%.
Spaniards, Europeans with the greatest mental health problems due to the health situation
Yolanda Cuevas, a health and sports psychologist, claims the need to take care of our state of mind, which, as the WHO states, “in which the person realizes their own abilities, can face the normal pressures of life, can work productively and fruitfully and is capable of making a contribution to the community ”, especially in the environment of the health crisis that the world is experiencing.
With more than 6,000 interviews conducted in Spain, Italy, France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Switzerland and Belgium to analyze the emotional impact of the health crisis, a European study promoted by the AXA Foundation reveals that Spaniards are the Europeans who have the most mental health problems due to the pandemic: 34% of Spaniards admit to feeling bad or very bad, the highest rate in the international sample, while only 20% affirm that their mood is good (the lowest percentage of the whole study).
The figures emphasize the deterioration registered in Spain due to the confinement situation since only 8% of those surveyed said they had emotional problems before the Covid, as reflected in the progress of the First Pan-European Study of Mental Health released last month of July.
“The mental health of Spaniards runs a significant risk from the current outbreaks and the effects of the accumulated months of the disease in Spain,” says Josep Alfonso, general director of the AXA Foundation.
Organizations claim “political priority” to tackle serious risk situations such as suicide
María Sánchez, E-Health Medical Manager of Cigna Spain indicates “that a prolonged exposure to this state of constant tension has serious consequences on our physical well-being, presenting itself through symptoms such as fatigue, nausea or headache, muscle or abdominal pain, and in our emotional and behavioral well-being, producing a decrease in concentration, nervousness, irritability or confusion ”.
González Zapico claims the need to give “political priority” to mental health care in Spain and demands the necessary economic and human resources necessary within the national health system. Given the extreme situation that the confinement and expansion of the pandemic generates for many people, it does not rule out an increase in the suicidal tendencies of many people.
Thus, the president of the Confederation warns that “this will become the first public health problem in Spain if it is not answered adequately” and notes that in hospitals such as the Gómez Hulla in Madrid, “acute admissions go to 25% for suicide attempts ”.
At the same time, he has warned that “very difficult times of economic crisis, unemployment, evictions are coming, which are going to affect the mental health of the entire population, generating problems, or worsening existing ones; And to this are added the suicides, which, although we do not have official data, we do have evidence, by our entities, that the situation is worsening ”.
Aegon informs that 12% of the population are not satisfied with their lifestyle due to self-esteem problems, either because they have low it (4.80%), or because they do not feel comfortable with their physical appearance (3.70% ) and, even, due to insecurity as a result of Covid-19 (1.30%).
The perception of health worsens as age advances, or if other factors are taken into account, such as unemployment, satisfaction with lifestyle and even marital status. For example, people aged 56 and over (Baby Boomers), widowers and unemployed people have a worse perception of health in general.
Telemedicine and self-diagnosis on the internet advances with confinement
One in three Aegon respondents use telemedicine and 70% say that it is very useful. Belén González adds that “during the Covid-19 crisis, the company’s free medical consultation service by chat and video call attended to more than 1,800 medical requests, mostly for general medicine issues.”
This company observes that 15% of the population uses telemedicine to be informed about issues related to Covid-19, while others use it to demand certain health specialties, such as dermatology (7%), pediatrics (7%), digestive (6%), gynecology (6%) and even psychological assistance (5%).
The 2019 data showed that 80% of those surveyed claimed to have gone to the doctor at least once in that year, while in 2020 only one in five Spaniards went in person.
Thus, concern grows over the fact that one in four people self-medicate and, of these, approximately 28% do so because they do not waste time going to the doctor. In turn, the study highlights that 53% of Spaniards use the Internet or social networks to self-diagnose and that 22% give credibility to that information.
Control of emotions and positive thinking, keys to improve our state in times of coronavirus
Coinciding with the celebration of World Mental Health Day, among the conclusions of the round table organized by Aegon with several specialists, and to which La Vanguardia has had access, the advice to promote the care of psychological well-being in order to face the Impacts of Covid-19 on health:
– Learn to know and accompany our emotions and relate positively to our thoughts: analyzing the root of our problems is key to learning to relativize them. Many times we feel stress or anxiety without knowing why or why we do not want to face what worries us. You don’t have to fight against them, if you don’t recognize them and know why we feel that way.
– Perform mindfulness, meditation and relaxation exercises: they are also a good tool for mental balance. 39% of those surveyed perform these exercises to avoid stress. Meditation has been scientifically proven to prevent repetitive negative thoughts and is able to decrease the level of activation of the amygdala in a long-term lasting way.
– Specialized help: go to a psychologist to help understand the functioning of the triad of thoughts, emotions and behaviors. Specialists teach how to recognize, validate and relate to emotions and distance yourself from the thoughts that fuel worry. Thanks to them, you will be able to learn the tools to regulate the nervous system, relaxation strategies, and even work on those past emotional wounds that are opened in the present, that medication or time does not heal by itself.