How does the coronavirus influence mental health?

These days we are witnessing (or protagonists) a pandemic of a new virus that they have called SARS-CoV-2. The media are reporting the physical and behavioral implications in the different infected countries.

All of Italy is in quarantine. In Spain, schools and retirement homes have been closed and people are advised to stay at home. We know it is not a deadly virus except for certain population groups; that the symptoms are similar to those of the flu; which affects older people more; and that there is no vaccine. We are talking about work-life balance, the economic impact and the number of people infected in every part of the planet.

But, What about the psychological impact? Does the virus have consequences for mental health?

    The psychological impact of SARS-CoV-2

    Covid19 does not change people’s mental health; but studies carried out in the aftermath of the 2003 SARS epidemic indicate that quarantine and collective psychosis produce psychological disorders. 20% of people infected with this virus were health workers.

    A study was carried out among health workers of all kinds in Beijing during the three years following the onset of SARS in 2003. These people had either been in a hospital considered to be at high risk or had been placed in hospital. quarantine or had been victims of the disease. death of a loved one due to the virus. It was found that 10% had suffered from high levels of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and; within this group, 40% still suffered from EPT 3 years later.

    Another study was conducted among healthcare workers in Toronto during the 2003 crisis, when the situation was critical as several hospitals were closed due to a shortage of staff due to infection and discovery of quarantine. It turned out that 29% of workers scored high due to emotional distress, double the general adult population of the country in the previous year.

    These results are consistent with studies on SARS in Taiwan, where over 75% of employees experienced psychiatric problems (Dr Mian-Yoon Chong, Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, Kaohsiung, Taiwan. 2004). In Singapore, more than 21% of employees suffered from psychiatric disorders.

    Among the general population, 40% of the sample from a Hong Kong survey of survivors suffered from an active psychiatric illness. The most common were depression, chronic fatigue, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

    In most research, suffering from a psychological disorder such as PTSD was directly affected by the perceived risk of death and the stigmatization of beliefs (to work as a healthcare worker) among others. This means that we can to some extent avoid developing psychiatric problems if we follow a series of professional recommendations to protect our mental health.

    Recommendations for maintaining emotional balance against the coronavirus

    The Official College of Psychologists of Madrid has published a series of recommendations to protect our mental health targeting vulnerable people uninfected, uninfected and infected with Covid19.

    Recommended guidelines include:

    • Keep a positive attitude.
    • Avoid talking about the topic continually.
    • over-information (The television will have to be turned off; the Official College of Psychologists of Madrid recommends seeking information verified by experts and on official channels such as the Ministry of Health).

    Other recommendations can be:

    • Look for individual and collective events (With the whole family living in the same space). Today technology can help us a lot because we can keep in touch with our friends and family online.
    • Do what we never have time to do: tidy up the house, clean the house thoroughly, redecorate the house …
    • Sharing time with our children …
    • Consult truthful and official sources of information, avoiding speculative or alarmist messages.

    On the other hand, there are people who do not act; therefore it is also recommended not to trivialize the situation, More in the case of groups at risk; take care of yourself and be careful.

    Author: Susana Merino García: Psychologist Specializing in Psychopathology, Clinical Intervention and Health.

    Bibliographical references:

    • Nickell LA, Crighton EJ, Tracy CS et al. Psychosocial effects of SARS on hospital staff: a survey conducted by a large tertiary care facility. CMAJ. 2004; 170 (5): 793-798.
    • Sim K, Chua HC. The psychological impact of SARS: a matter of heart and mind. CMAJ. 2004; 170 (5): 811-812.
    • Wu P., Fang Y., Guan Z., Fan B., Kong J., Yao Z. and Hoven CW (2009). The psychological impact of the SARS epidemic on hospital workers in China: exposure, risk perception and altruistic risk acceptance. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 54 (5), 302-311.
    • Ho-Bun. Metal. (2003). Archives of Internal Medicine, December 14-28.

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