Sandra, the fictitious name of a 24-year-old girl, suffers from anxiety, a disorder that has been exacerbated by the coronavirus crisis. In April she tried to go to the Social Security psychologist, where they offered her an appointment for several months later: “They didn’t give it the necessary importance, the family doctor called me and told me that half of Spain was like that.” He has had to go to a private psychologist to be able to manage his mental problems.
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After almost a year and a half of the COVID-19 pandemic in Spain, it can be said that the epidemiological crisis uncovered another different crisis, hidden and silenced for years by stigma: that of mental health. But in recent months there have been episodes that have placed psychological problems in the public sphere. From the “go to the doctor” that a PP deputy dedicated to the spokesperson of Más País in Congress, Íñigo Errejón, in his speech on this health alert, to the withdrawal of the gymnast Simone Biles from the Olympic Games, claiming that it is “more mental health is important than sport. ”
The coordinator of the Master in Gender Studies at the Complutense University of Madrid, Marta Evelia Aparicio, explains that gender roles play an important role in mental health: “Women are usually in charge of family management, which includes not only the organization and execution of housework, but also the emotional management of the family “. They are also in charge of tasks that “are less visible and rewarding than those carried out by men. For example, cleaning the home,” continues the expert. “The little social value that is given to these tasks does not allow women to raise their self-esteem”, something that was increased in the months of confinement: they took care of that domestic and emotional work, but also in many cases they had to working or teleworking, so “they slept less, rested worse and that is why they suffered more psychological wear,” says Aparicio.
More anxious and depressive symptoms at the beginning of confinement
Different studies have measured the impact that the epidemiological situation has had on people’s emotional stability. An example is the article recently published in the magazine Frontiers in Psychology, prepared by researchers from the universities of Loyola, Málaga and Córdoba. The work concludes that psychological problems during confinement did not affect men and women equally. They were the most affected at the beginning of the quarantine, according to one of the authors, the doctor in Psychology Davinia Resurrección: “The rest of the world literature on COVID had also pointed out that women suffered more psychological symptoms associated with the pandemic. the first cut [el inicio de la pandemia] women reported being worse, we had more anxiety and depressive symptoms and symptoms related to post-traumatic stress disorder compared to men “, says the researcher.
However, the document also reflects that, with the passage of time and throughout the pandemic months, women were placed in terms of mental health in the same place as men. Resurrección points out that “women have had their means so that, even though they were worse at first, they could recover with the same environmental variables.” The reasons can be diverse: in the first place, because they “at the social level are much more used to being able to express emotions.” Also because, in general and already before COVID-19, “the prevalence of depressive symptoms in women is two times higher than in men.” Likewise, the fact that they recognize and express their emotions more makes them also regulate and manage them in a better way.
Along the same lines, Sara Esteban, a doctor and adjunct professor of Psychology at the European University, explains that “at baseline” female people “report worse mental health data, such as anxiety, depression or stress”. In other words, even without a pandemic, women generally report more psychological problems, not only in Spain but “also in different cultures and countries,” says the expert, with which it is true that they express their emotions more, “but there are also underlying factors “, such as starting from a worse psychological situation. This makes them become a “vulnerable population group” and at risk due to different factors, such as “an increase in family responsibilities”, but without the social support they could have before the pandemic.
“I was in agony all day”
Noelia, 32, had to go through postpartum during confinement. “My experience can be summed up in the word ‘agony.’ According to Esteban, what Noelia tells was common to other mothers who had to cope not only with the biological and psychological consequences of postpartum, but also those of the epidemiological situation. “They are going through all this on their own, being an especially difficult stage for them,” adds the doctor.
Noelia also says that she felt that she was being treated as an exaggeration for having anxiety after confinement: “I felt bad because I did not know how to act with my daughter outside my home. It was very difficult for me to go back to a park or have a soda” , he relates. In this sense, Esteban points to a “self-imposed confinement” of these mothers who, to protect their child and because of the fear of contagion, can isolate themselves, something that worsens the “natural risk condition” of the perinatal period. “It is a time bomb for your psychic well-being,” says the psychologist. Now, with the ‘new normal’, she continues to experience those emotions: “They are echoes that have remained in me. Right now everything is beyond me, I have no capacity to react and I am always blocked,” she says.
The psychological impact of the pandemic months on women helped to highlight public health deficiencies in terms of mental health. As Dr. Marta Evelia Aparicio points out, “psychology in the public health field is greatly minimized and if you want to go to a psychology professional you have to wait a long time because there is a large waiting list and few professionals available”. This makes access to help difficult for people like María José, 53, who was diagnosed with an anxiety-depressive disorder in the pandemic: “I have hardly had contact with Social Security psychologists,” he points out. She has been “changing her medication for six months” but has had to deal with her disorder and the feeling of isolation on her own. Your case is not the only one. Begoña also takes medication for depression and anxiety, pathologies that were aggravated after passing COVID-19. “I tried to look for a psychologist through Social Security, but they told me there wasn’t one, so I had to go private.” The young woman affirms that the public health system prescribed “vitamin D” and told her that “it would go away. “.