The topic of mental health in public health emergencies is often underestimated and pushed into the background. During such emergencies, however, the psychological factors of the concerned population not only affect their personal well-being but also their willingness to respect public health measures. In Italy, there has been a substantial increase in requests for action by university psychiatric clinics and psychological health departments. In particular, severe cases of depression caused mainly by concern for the future have been noted.
What to do with mental health
Without psychological health, there can be no recovery. This is the alarm raised by the Italian Society for Psychiatry. The lockdown period is having effects even on people who were not directly exposed to Covid-19. Presidents Sip Massimo Di Giannantonio and Enrico Zanalda claim that the first signs are already being seen and if they are not dealt with, they may bring about a series of irreversible consequences including poverty, serious emotional suffering and the overcrowding of facilities. In fact, an increase of one-third in the number of patients that use mental health services will overwhelm the national assistance network. More than one million Italians will be affected by Cabin Fever, which increases the risk of developing psychopathologies and adaptation disorders. The idea of returning to a semblance of normality produces fear in many people who are afraid of not being able to adapt to new rhythms, while others are simply anxious to return to life as it was. Additionally, there is concern about job security and an inevitably difficult economic situation, which generates a great deal of uncertainty about the future. All this on top of the exceptional nature of the situation produced by Covid-19.
For these reasons, the government and regional governments have been asked to add the treatment of mental disorders to the agenda, requesting the recruitment of 800 psychiatrics and an allocation of at least 40 million euros. Instruments used for the diffusion of telepsychiatry must also be reinforced to reach the largest number of patients possible while allowing psychiatrists to work in a safe environment. We must not forget that even the psycho-physical health of healthcare workers during the Covid-19 emergency has been put to the test and approximately one out of two healthcare workers report symptoms of psychophysical stress.
Even WHO explains that Covid-19 is not just a physical emergency, but mental. General director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stressed that psychological health systems should be reinforced in every country to cope with the implications.
The most acute phase of the crisis, which mainly affected physical health, is now in the past, but now we must begin taking care of psychological health. Ghebreyesus explains that successfully handling this new challenge will also benefit anti-contagion rules, making it easier for people to adhere to them. Mental health protection is, thus, a top priority for WHO in this phase of the emergency. We must wait and see how many of these directives will be implemented by the Italian government and, most of all, by what means and how many resources will be deployed during this historical moment that has put great strain on the Italian healthcare system.
© Domedica s.r.l.