On Thursday, Health Minister Enrique Paris said Chile is experiencing a coronavirus outbreak, following the steady rise of infected people. This situation makes possible new restrictive measures, which have already been taken in different regions, such as returning to absolute confinement in the country.
This picture undoubtedly puts at risk one of the aspects that has been most affected by the pandemic: mental health. Experts warn that a second wave of contagion would bring very serious problems in people’s stability, causing even more harmful effects than those brought by the former. The most affected age groups would be both children and older adults.
Pablo Toro, psychiatrist of the Christus UC Health Network, indicated that some experts warn that this could be worse because in the first confinement people generated certain traumas from all the associated changes and that now, in the face of the possibility of all this coming back, there is a kind of retraumatization.
Also, over the past year, the treatment of many diseases, including mental health diseases, was neglected, where people could not be adequately treated so they present a worse picture by enhancing them to be more unstable than before. And finally, people’s accumulated tiredness affects their well-being.
Danae Cerda, a psychologist at Chile’s Observatory of Mental Health, indicated that the arrival of a regrowth results in a revictimization of people, who are again exposed to increased stress, anxiety, sleep disorders and fear associated with the virus, such as spreading.
In addition, he stated that «there is a high probability that the effects on mental health will be greater than the first wave, where two types of reactions occur: the state of denial and the condition of people who when returning to trauma a behavior of acceptance and evasion of risk situations arises, causing frustration.»
Children and older adults most affected
With regard to the age group that could be most affected by a second wave, it would be older adults and children. According to Cerda, seniors, as a result of confinement, may see weakness in their muscles and cognitive abilities may be modified by not interacting with others.
For children, they are mainly affected on an emotional level «as they cannot go out and play and be distracted, which can lead to adaptive and generalized anxiety disorders.»
The juvenile infant psychologist, Isabel Puga, emphasized that this age group is part of the vulnerable population and is quite unvisitable. In addition, he indicated that at their age there were many processes that could be affected during extended periods of isolation, such as what had been experienced in the last year.
Adolescents, for their part, are quite exposed to problems in this area because they already have the autonomy to go out and need to relate to peers, however, with restrictions they cannot. «The way they show their emotionality is very intense and with a lot of energy, and that’s why they see that they break the rules, because they need to be constantly related to others,» Puga said.
Experts emphasized that healthy eating, indoor exercises, meditation spaces, good communication and above all fun space is essential, as it releases endorphin. «It’s not that we’re doomed to enter a bleak state, we have to activate the relationship with others from the house with very simple things that are available to everyone,» the youthful infant psychologist concluded.