The Editorial | Pandemic fatigue

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In Colombia, mental health care is deficient. It always has been, so as this health crisis continues to drag on, it should be a cause for concern that millions of people – seriously affected by the consequences of the economic challenges and bitter experiences accumulated during the pandemic – do not receive support. to cope with their deteriorating emotional, psychological and social well-being.

Experts insist on the alarming consequences of the current situation that would be behind the increase in mental illnesses or behaviors linked to the use of psychoactive substances, domestic violence and aggressive behaviors. It is a fact that Covid-19 is not only causing a cataclysm in people’s physical health or economy, but also in their state of mind. It is what the World Health Organization (WHO) calls ‘pandemic fatigue’, a mental and psychological exhaustion related to an excess of worries, a feeling of extreme vulnerability and helplessness, lack of sleep or the desire to eat, general apathy and problems with concentrate or make decisions. In other words, an infinite exhaustion for months of uncertainty and instability, a disconcerting time capable of making the strongest stagger. And who is it today after facing the constant fear of an imminent contagion or suffering traumatic events such as the loss of a loved one?

In the opinion of health professionals, ‘pandemic fatigue’ also has a very negative effect on the individual and collective fight against Covid-19. The demotivation, boredom and even sadness that today shake millions of people around the world is causing them to lower their guard against contagion prevention measures and to resist the use of a mask, physical distancing or frequent hand washing .

So many mixed feelings added to the stress, anxiety and discomfort around the omnipresent virus, only momentarily alleviated by the hopeful news about advances in the development of vaccines, are leading citizens, especially the youngest, to succumb to temptation to give up or, at least, to have less desire to take care of yourself. It is as if, in an accelerated way, too many people are losing the purpose that has occupied us throughout this challenging year: to fight the unpredictable virus.

An immense challenge for the Barranquilla and Atlántico authorities, who in addition to imposing appeals or sanctions on those who continue to attend mass parties as if nothing were happening, should try to find more innovative strategies to convey the message of health precaution, reinforcing preventive social behaviors with the purpose of making citizens aware of the real threat of the virus. We do not have to wait to move to a new moment in the pandemic to understand that we are facing a new wave, that of mental health. As if it were the tail of the most devastating hurricane, the impact of Covid-19 will be felt who knows for how long and with a range that is very difficult to forecast yet.

Is anyone thinking about how to respond to the mild or moderate emotional disturbances experienced by people with fragile mental health conditions or with a history of exposure to traumatic events related, for example, to different forms of violence?

Although social coexistence and mental health are priorities in the Ten-Year Public Health Plan 2012-2021, they continue to be postponed and citizens, especially the poorest, face considerable barriers to access the limited services offered by a health care system. health in crisis, not to mention the minimal advances in prevention and promotion. The more remote the area, the more unthinkable the care with competent professionals and in specific therapies, also because there are no specialized centers.

It is a priority to adapt the scarce resources of mental health care to the growing demand for services, the aftermath of the pandemic. Do not wait until it is too late and the gaps in the well-being of citizens widen and take their toll on increasingly sick and prematurely aging generations.

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