We closed February 2020 with uncertainty over the impact the novel coronavirus would have on our society as it approached. We had to manage the constant flow of information that the media spewed out and pay special attention, caring, to the most vulnerable at a physical distance. We are living in a 45-day state of emergency and Portuguese society around the world has endured and stoically fulfilled what was asked of it.
However, this effort had and still has psychological costs. The wear and tear caused by the stressful experience of the pandemic will, in most cases, be repairable, but requires attention and care. Several studies developed during this period give an account of what needs to be done in terms of mental health. There are particularly fragile groups. In addition to people who were already in a vulnerable situation, there are also people who belong to the groups at risk of covid-19 (chronically ill and elderly), those who live on precarious income and health professionals.
After the pandemic, the union
The pandemic has aggravated three health problems of the populations: i) there has been an increase in cases of domestic violence, thanks to the implementation of emergency measures; ii) aggravated the difficulty of accessing health care for non-covid-19 patients, due to the reallocation of scarce resources, with a significant negative impact on non-communicable diseases; and, therefore, iii) left a large part of the population in a state of emotional and psychological exhaustion.
The psychological impact of the coronavirus
This is why, at the moment, we not only have a pandemic to deal with, we have a union, which requires much more comprehensive measures. A union is characterized by a reciprocal worsening interaction between health problems and the social and economic context in a given population. The health problem (in this case the covid-19 pandemic) exacerbates social and economic problems and vice versa in a downward spiral.
A careful look and attached to the well-being of the population allows us to identify a set of structural measures, which also include protection at work and social security, the absence of which conditions the worsening of the impact of the pandemic. on the society. Urgent responses to fight against poverty with labor and social security policies coherent and coherent with the year 2020 in which we live and which update what the 1990s implemented.
Policies that cut across society as a whole and which definitively put an end to the perception that there are workers with all protection and workers without any protection. Or the idea that hundreds of illegal homes, reported on, are something that everyone knows exists and will continue to exist without the term “illegal” reminding us that we live in a Democratic rule of law. It is important to discuss hydrogen for the strategic future of the country, but it will be incomprehensible that it is not discussed either.
The adequacy of measures and conspiracy theories
The origin of the virus and how it has spread around the world remains somewhat doubtful, and while there is some evidence to suggest that this is not a laboratory-made product, it is not There are still no studies that would rule out its intentional use as a biological weapon. . These “ gaps ” are quickly filled by Internet conspiracy theories fueled by suspicion of figures like Bill Gates who, having made his fortune in IT, have made huge investments in recent years in the field of health and immunization. Thus, more and more movements deny the danger of the virus and claim that public health measures, such as the use of a community mask, are an attempt to control and oppress the population and to impose a vaccine on them that will make them more harm than good.
The virus is real and we have to face its existence. From the adequacy of the measures taken with regard to their danger, we will not be able to assess until much later and it will be impossible to know what it would have been if the measures had been different, it suffices to compare with what other countries did. However, it is essential that errors are identified and that they are properly analyzed so that knowledge can emerge to be implemented in the next steps. This is a premise of clinical reasoning and, at this level, fortunately, the approach to covid-19 cases is currently more informed and effective than it was in March 2020, when the first cases are. appeared in Portugal.
And suddenly everything changes. Mental health in the NHS must respond
We know that the use of masks helps reduce contagion and vaccines are one of the great advances in human scientific knowledge that have saved lives. We do not live in a society which only guarantees individual rights and freedoms, it also demands a set of duties on our part and that of defending and promoting the protection of health is one of them – “everyone has the right to protection. health and the duty to defend and promote it “, Article 64 N ° 1 of the Constitution of the Portuguese Republic.
It is essential that the information is not withheld from us and that independent control of decisions taken at political and technical-scientific levels be allowed. In a democratic regime, the government is expected to govern and the opposition to remain active in the adversarial, constructive manner. A pandemic is not a war. That is why it is good that at least now we know who the experts are who inform policy makers. Analogies can be very helpful in communication, but they can also be reductive, misleading, and limited.
To say that we are “at war with the virus” is grossly inappropriate. Words shape the way we develop the perception of the reality in which we live. Associated with words are meanings, memories and emotions that influence us. Discouragement and apathy are installed or strength is renewed and hope is raised. Words are important. The way we use them is too. It is not possible to intimidate or discourage a virus. What is the use of saying that we are at war with him?
We need vigilance and availability, but we must reduce hostility and mistrust. We have to filter the immense amount of information that is circulating, but we cannot confuse that with censorship and lack of transparency. We must deal with uncertainty and the unknown, but we must not allow silence to settle on relevant issues – the “gaps” will quickly be filled. A pandemic is not a war.
The uncertain future
We are now entering the month of October with the prospect of the second wave. It is impossible to determine the size of this wave, but it is estimated that the number of cases could be two to three times higher with the onset of winter.
Most of the second wave cases will be moderate and do not require internment, so they will be sent to home isolation. Families should be prepared to accept situations in which one family member is infected and, therefore, the whole family should stay at home. And situations in which a family member, by direct contact with an infected person, at school or at work should be tested and stay home as a precaution. This dynamic will turn the life of schools, businesses and families upside down. And although no one has said it yet, we need to prepare and adapt. When you can’t change the direction of the wind, you can only readjust the sails.
Limitations due to the pandemic mean less travel, less consumption and the economy is shrinking. Many people have lost their job / job or are looking to lose it. The number of covid-19 cases increases with the onset of winter and its management will bring new challenges to health services and the population. There are rumors of growing conflicts and new hot and cold wars breaking out across the world. The future now looks quite uncertain.
Now is not the time to give up and give in to uncertainty or fear. Now is not the time to quickly align with radicalized rhetoric and conspiracies that from time to time “say the right things”. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day and it is not for this reason
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It’s normal to feel fearful and anxious about all of this uncertainty. It would be strange not to feel it. Emotions can take hold of us and it is important to recognize that they are expected and normal. We must control them and not let them control us. Seeking to analyze and understand the emotional state we are experiencing is the first step in controlling them.
The words we use also condition how we think and feel something. Let’s not talk about social distance, let’s talk about physical distance. Let’s not think about isolation, let’s think about protection. We are not focusing on the crisis, but on the opportunities. Now is not the time to shut down and isolate. We need to maintain social contacts and talk openly with those close to us about what concerns us and how we can cope.
Now is not the time to give up and give in to uncertainty or fear. This will not be the time to quickly align with radicalized rhetoric and conspiracies which, from time to time, “say the right things”. Even a fixed clock is correct twice a day and it doesn’t really work. It is important to remember that courage is not about the absence of fear, but the ability to do what needs to be done despite the fear. We cannot control the future, but we can control how we deal with it.