Quarantine increased demands for antidepressants and psychologists

Isolation during the quarantine period has encouraged and increased the use of antidepressants.

Author: Enejda Groshi, Jurgen Bame

According to some pharmacies surveyed in Tirana, we learned that about 30% more antidepressants have been sold during this period. The most common symptoms that citizens have when they go to the pharmacy are insomnia, anxiety and blood pressure fluctuations. In addition to vitamins and plant-based antidepressants and opiates, pharmacists say there has been a demand for real somatic drugs or antidepressants in consultation with a doctor such as lorazepam, alprazolam or citalopram.The isolation measures to protect themselves from the “invisible enemy” coronavirus have left a silent enemy in the background – mental health problems!

According to the clinical psychologist EnertilaBekteshi, the measures taken by the government, isolation, distancing from work and social life, bring negative consequences on mental health.

“Certainly, the situation we are going through is not healthy, in terms of mental and emotional health. Faced with this situation, a large number of people have started to seek help from specialists. Psychologists have had a special importance and have welcomed an unusual number of cases”, says the psychologist.

The World Health Organization said that the crisis caused by pandemics and the austerity measures many countries are taking to curb the spread of the virus could negatively affect people’s mental health.”Isolation, physical distance, closure of schools and workplaces are challenges that affect us, and it is natural to feel stress, anxiety, fear and loneliness at this time,” Hans Kluge said, director of the European branch of the WHO.

The Ministry of Health and Social Protection has made available the free green line for psychological counseling for every citizen about COVID-19.

To learn more about this initiative and to be informed about the number of calls made on this line, we sent a request for information to the Ministry of Health on May 7 and despite the requests via email and phone calls, no information has been shared up to date.

Considering the irresponsibility of the institution to send the information within the deadline and in the required format, we decided to test the green line to prove its effectiveness.

The call lasted more than 16 minutes with the psychologist, to whom we expressed the ‘problems’ that we had encountered during the pandemic. From the test we did with this line, the service was effective but as psychologist said, Albanians still find it difficult to express themselves about their mental health problems and this makes online consultation somewhat difficult.

The Psychologist’s Order also undertook the initiative of providing free online psychological help to all persons who experience emotional difficulties while coping with the quarantine. Staying in isolation and social distancing for more than 2 months has influenced the increase of emotional load, experiencing anxiety, sleep disorders, as well as the level of stress in coping with everyday life from the citizens.

These are the most common concerns experienced by Albanians, who have been forced to seek the help of a psychologist.In almost 50 days of free service, about 800 phone calls were made for psychological consultations. The figure is high, taking into account the cultural factors for the approach to the psychologist.130 professional psychologists assisted the population mainly by telephone.

“The number of calls was very high and beyond our expectations, this delayed the date of the end of the initiative until May 10.” says the president of the Order of Psychologists Dr. ValbonaTreska

The service is provided online and this has been an innovation in providing assistance to both the population and the psychologists themselves, who as their very day work procedure go through face-to-face consultations, says Dr. Treska.

The highest number of calls comes from big cities, which have had the largest number of the affected, such as Tirana, Durres, Shkodra and Lezha.

“It is worth mentioning that in Tirana and Durres, people have not yet recovered from the consequences of the November 26 earthquake and for the citizens the situation created by the coronavirus is like a second wave of panic and fear. This makes the calls from these cities to be higher “, says Mrs. Treska.

Source: Psychologist’s Order

Regarding age, there has been an influx of calls and online consultations from the ages of 30-35.

Source: Psychologist’s Order

What has been ascertained is a higher demand for consultations by women with children, who have found it much more difficult to manage this quarantine period. They had to manage many things at the same time: leaving their job and isolating themselves, managing children, taking care of the house and much less time for themselves than usual, stress for the future and economic insecurity.

Although the age group most at risk from COVID-19 has been of the population of over 60, there is an almost incalculable percentage of citizens of this age who have sought help. The president of the Order of Psychologists says that one of the factors for this low percentage of people over the age of 50 who have sought help, is the mentality not open to the profession of psychologist as a whole, or access to social networks or the web, for identifying lists of psychologists.

A significant percentage of the data presented is occupied by young people, aged 10-18. With the prior approval of the parent, there have been direct consultations with the latter. Their number has increased over the last 3 weeks of service.

“We have had an increased flow of consultations requested by teenagers. The lack of time slots for them to leave the apartment, the fear of COVID, problems encountered with online learning, the lack of direct social contacts necessary for a teenager, which have overlapped with age issues, have resulted in a high percentage of need for consultation with a psychologist. We consider this result to be an alarm bell and that special attention should be paid to this age group with social policies and activities that focus on their psychological well-being “, says the President of the Psychologists Order.

In terms of gender, 70% of calls for online psychological counseling were made by women.

“In the early days we had a higher number of phone calls from men, a ratio which was reversed very quickly.”

Source: Psychologist’s Order

Regarding the problems, what is noticed is a very high percentage of consultations are made specifically for problems with anxiety, accompanied occasionally by panic attacks and emotional loads.

Source: Psychologist’s Order

Spousal issues occupy 8% of total calls.

Quarantine and domestic violence

The Ministry of Health and Social Protection has called on anyone facing domestic violence to report to the women’s free counseling line 116/117 and the state police 129/112.

The data provided by the “Ministry of Interior” shows that during March 2020 there were reports of 249 cases of violence and other crimes committed in family relationships, or 72 cases less than during February 2020. But during March 2019 A total of 390 cases of violence and other crimes committed in family relations have been identified by the police.

In quarantine time, ‘freedom’ is the most searched word on Google.

The search engine data provided by Monitor magazine show that the search term “permission to exit” is at the top of the search. The second place in search is occupied by “shqipëriaqëduam.al”.

According to Monitor.al, the increase in clicks for this website is related to the direct initiative of the Prime Minister who on March 24 decided for all citizens who wanted to communicate with him, to write exactly on this platform. While the third most clicked word remains ‘Covid-19’.

For psychologist EnertilaBekteshi, the situation we are going through seems like a great collective experiment that changed our daily lives.“I would like isolation to serve as a positive reflection on thinking and interacting with others.”

Until this whole situation changes and we return to normal, it is still unknown what other social consequences this pandemic will have.“In terms of social consequences, divorce can certainly be one of them, but the addition of people with mental health problems may be present in us.”

The situation created by the pandemic only revealed the tip of the iceberg of mental problems that have been present in society for years. Official institutions should always prioritize initiatives related to the mental health of their citizens to detect these problems in time, so that mental health concerns or disorders do not ‘explode’ immediately during social, economic or political crises!

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