The arrival of Covid-19 has had strong repercussions on the mental health of Chileans. Although many of them began to present their first symptoms during this last time, others already had some disorder or pathology prior to the pandemic. Due to the circumstances, patients have had to postpone therapies or directly suspend treatment.
Mental health has been one of the biggest concerns that Covid-19 has brought with it. Due to the strict measures to stop contagions, confinements and uncertainty, a high level of stress and anxiety has been produced in the population.
In addition to the above, Chile had long experienced very high rates of mental problems. Although this has affected many people, one of the hardest hit groups has been people who already had an underlying disease or disorder prior to the pandemic.
Carlos Ibáñez, chief psychiatrist of the University of Chile Psychiatric Clinic Addictions Unit, affirmed that “people who have mental health problems or antecedents are one of the groups that are most affected by the pandemic and by emergency and disaster situations. There are many studies that show how the stress of a situation we are experiencing worsens some symptoms.
One of the problems that people with these diseases have had to face has been that many of them have not been able to continue with their treatment due to the current situation.
“Among the things that happened was that the care in the public mental health system decreased by up to 70%, so the ability to have psychotherapy, regular controls and even maintain the medication was seen and continues to be severely interrupted and that it adds that before the pandemic the capacity of the system to treat people with mental health problems was very limited, “said Ibáñez.
Telemedicine in mental health
One of the alternatives that has been presented in recent times has been remote medicine or telemedicine, which has been established in various health centers to continue treating patients remotely.
“There is a significant gap between those who require care and those who are receiving. People may not like it, feel uncomfortable or do not have the possibility of doing telemedicine, but where it is being done, it works as a great tool and contribution, “said Vania Martínez, psychiatrist in charge of” Red Salud Mental Es Salud ”And academic from the University of Chile.
The Government, for its part, made Hospital Digital available, a platform so that people can request an hour with a psychologist, but it does not include other needs that are linked to these pathologies.
Along the same lines, the psychiatrist Carlos Ibáñez emphasized that distance medicine has generated a leap in the incorporation of technologies in care, but the digital divide related to the socioeconomic and educational level is a reality in our country, therefore that is not a resource for everyone.
Problems for the future
In addition to the above, another difficulty that has arisen in recent times has been that, due to the context, many people have not been diagnosed, so it is expected that post-pandemic, there will be an increase in the detection of diseases associated with the mind.
Likewise, Martínez asserted that “there are groups that we are concerned about, which are health professionals, women, children and adolescents and people with previous mental health problems. They are groups of particular attention, some studies have shown how the symptoms have increased, which, we believe, is not of such high risk for now, so we have to take preventive measures now ”.
Pablo Toro, a psychiatrist at the UC Christus Health Network, indicated that it is very likely that there will be an increase in mental problems starting 10 months after the health measures to combat the coronavirus have begun. “We already see very clearly a well marked increase in general consultation. This situation has persisted, then, unfortunately one is seeing how different people are being affected, either with a history and people who had not previously presented symptoms “.
Currently, the country has a budget of 2.5% of the health budget destined for mental health, despite the fact that the World Health Organization indicated that the ideal is around 6%. This is why experts are warning that, as a result of the pandemic, where a very complex scenario has been generated in mental well-being, it is necessary to generate an increase in financing to be able to address the needs that come after the pandemic.
Travis M. Andrews is a features writer for The Washington Post. He joined The Post in 2016 as a reporter for Morning Mix. He was previously a travel and culture editor for Southern Living magazine, a contributing pop culture reporter for Mashable and the Week, and a contributing editor for the Syfy blog Dvice. He also has freelanced for magazines, including Esquire, GQ and Time. He is the author of the coming book “Because He’s Jeff Goldblum,” a semi-rumination and semi-ridiculous look at the career of the enigmatic actor and an exploration of the shifting nature of fame in the 21st century, to be published in November by Plume.