Italy’s survivors face uncharted wave of mental heath emergencies

Italy's-survivors-face-uncharted-wave-of-mental-heath-emergencies

Italy faces a new emergency in the mental health of its citizen – particularly coronavirus survivors.

According to a report, the country’s efforts toward battling the coronavirus crisis is now moving to a new phase with research and treatments being done by medical professionals from hospitals and research facilities such as the Lazzaro Spallanzani National Institute for Infectious Diseases.

The said institute, which is situated in Rome, has been at the forefront in the coronavirus battle. While it has seen the outbreak first hand, it details that a parallel and related emergency is being attributed to the trauma experienced by Italy’s survivors.

An emerging wave of symptoms

Psychologist Tommaso Speranza cites how “coronavirus patients think entering the hospital is the beginning of the end.” He reports that the level of agony and paranoia have become comparable to what is being manifested by survivors of natural disasters and war.

To address symptoms such as fear of dying, anxiety, depression, anger, panic attacks, insomnia, and survivor’s guilt, a team of psychologists intervenes and engages the patients or their family members in an initial therapy session. Much of the session is directed to gaining the patients’ trust that hospital staff will do whatever they can to save lives, and in some cases, these psychologists would go out of their way to connect isolated patients to their loved ones through video calls.

Communicating a patient’s death

The said institute has also seen high levels of mental stress in doctors and nurses who would need to communicate the deaths of patients to family members. Psychologists deal with this by reminding the medical front line workers about the limits of their profession, and by giving assuring them that they indeed have saved countless lives.

Coping with grief and anxiety

After conducting a series of therapies, psychologists have found that the biggest fear of those who work in the front lines is that they catch the virus themselves and unknowingly infect family members.

In effect, more and more medical professionals have been working over the phone and by video call for fear of being infected.

On the other hand, patients deal with not only the fear of contracting the virus. Dr. Rizzi adds that survivor’s guilt has been widely seen in patients whose family member died ahead of them.

To address this mental health emergency, the health ministry has aimed to launch a helpline. Francesco Caputo, who is a psychotherapist from NGO Mediterranea, was able to do this in late April, and the helpline has since been dealing with people who were either looking for clear information about the pandemic, or people who are devastated by a loved one’s death.

Continued support after patients are discharged from hospitals

The Spallanzani hospital details that they monitor and maintain communication with those who have been discharged from the hospital.

Therapy sessions are being conducted to prepare Italy’s survivors for life “outside” and to prevent more severe cases of mental disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder and suicide.

 

Featured image courtesy of Kat Jayne/Pexels.

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