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'Pandemic fatigue': the side effect of Covid-19 that plagues the Spanish population


The pandemic fatigue and mental health problems are one of the most widespread and worrying consequences that coronavirus pandemic. That fatigue, or the functioning of psychiatric care in times of Covid are some of the issues that the study of the Comillas University.

The Comillas University conducted two studies to obtain results on the psychiatric problems brought about by the pandemic. On the one hand, he carried out a psychological evaluation focused on the frontline professionals, of which they chose four groups (health, security forces and bodies together with the armed forces, supermarket personnel and journalists) and; on the other, carried out a study at the population level, regardless of profession, from the perspective of how to live and cope with a pandemic and confinement.

The pandemic fatigue, as its name suggests, it is a tiredness or satiety associated with a pandemic. In the words of Nereida Well, psychologist and teacher in Comillas, “at the population level, I would associate that tiredness with turning on the television and being constantly with the same topic, and also with the uncertainty that we have had so far, something that causes one to want a solution now, not we must continue talking about numbers of infected and deceased. " and that "there comes a time when one wants to disconnect, and that is when it is said that it has reached pandemic fatigue ”. Well, he extrapolates it to ordinary life, when one is saturated with work, he ends up rejecting it and needs something different, what is called 'burnout', 'being burned out'.

With regard to pandemic fatigue, Nereida Bueno would put one more eye on front-line professionals, since "there may be more symptoms in them associated with that fatigue," she contemplates.

However, the results of the questionnaires carried out by the University, focused on analyzing the psychological impact in order to clarify the traumatic symptoms that appear after this situation, are worrying.

The data reveals that a third of the population is depressed and with very compatible symptoms with those people who suffer posttraumatic stress, that is, they have experienced such violent and traumatic stimuli as a terrorist attack, a war, an aggression … “Now we are seeing that the pandemic as such could become a type of stimulus like this, because it is causing symptoms very similar to those we see in people who have gone through these other situations, ”says Nereida Bueno.

This with respect to the population, but if the study focuses on professionals, the figures increase much more. The data confirm that a 74% of health workers, 65% of supermarket workers, almost half of the interviewed journalists and a quarter of the workers of the forces, security forces and armed forces already show those traumatic symptoms. In fact, they have very severe levels, which carries a serious risk, such as chronify (to stay for a long time) or even are modified towards other symptoms. These may be the level of pandemic fatigue mentioned above, but mixed with other symptoms such as sadness, flashbacks (memories of images that have been seen), sleep difficulties or intrusive memories (a memory that you don't want to have); among others.

As a conclusion, it can be drawn that if fatigue is added to that traumatic impact, an ehigh number of people would need psychological attention.

We would, then, be talking about another variable to take into account: the resources to offer psychological support required.

According to Eurostat, Spain is located the third by the tail in the number of psychiatrists with 11 per 100,000 inhabitants. Some numbers that contrast with the existing demand, where the level of depression tripled in consultations, according to Federation of Mental Health of Catalonia. "We are not sufficiently prepared," declares psychologist Bueno.

Another added problem is the lack of therapeutic follow-up of a psychologist who works in the clinical field, since he cannot do a weekly or monthly follow-up as is usually done in the private sector. This means that if you have a consultation today, perhaps for two months you will not have the next one again, and during all that time the patient will continue to suffer from all the symptoms of his diagnosis.

An alternative, of course, would be to go to a private psychologist; But prices in the private sector, at least, move between 40 or 50 euros per consultation, a price that an average citizen can hardly afford, especially considering the serious economic crisis derived from the pandemic.

"I consider it a urgent topic that the health system must address because I am worried about what is going to happen in a few months. I do not think that the arrival of the vaccine will solve, like a magic wand, the state in which these people are, because there will continue to be a psychological trace that needs to be addressed ”, insists Nereida Bueno.

But do all the people who need help, ask for it? There is data showing that the toilets, for example, take a long time to seek psychological helpThey do it when the symptoms are already too serious. Waves security forces and bodies, which are governed by the principle of ‘stoicism’, From which, either they do not finish identifying the negative emotion they feel, or they identify it but consider that they have to be prepared and available for what comes and, therefore, they do not have to ask for help.

“One of the things we think is that you have to be very proactive: do not wait for them to come, approach us.”, Nereida Bueno advances.

"A solution could be that from human resources, both in public and private places, are able to detect or even anticipate these sensations and make a ‘Screaming’, a quick assessment and start schedule group therapies to talk about this, "Well proposes," debates also on television, for example, it can help a lot to normalize these feelings and thus encourage people to seek help ”, but“ the concern remains that if they are encouraged to seek that help and then there is no money for them, we would be there ”, he adds.

Therefore, Nereida claims that “this should be a social dialogue, a public health dialogue why mental health is health too and it seems that we always separate the physical from the mental, but the mental also affects people, psychologists are also health workers”.

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