The COVID-19 virus had vast consequences on every aspect of our lives: work, studies, social life and, most importantly, health. Everyone knows and frantically looks out for the symptoms: cough, fever, loss of taste or smell and shortness of breath. Many people have lamented the latter persisting for months after recovering from the virus.
However, many countries’ authorities have failed to acknowledge the part that mental health plays in the current restriction-dictated situation.
The strenuous increase of cases of depression and anxiety in Italy continues, yet it is met by a further decrease of resources dedicated to mental wellbeing and dedicated personnel, with an all-time low in Calabria, where there are only 50 therapists in a region populated by just under 2 million people.
“There has been government help for everything – from holidays to bikes and scooters – but mental health support has been forgotten. During the past nine months, the resources devoted to mental health support have been the same as before the pandemic.” With these words, David Lazzari – president of the Order of Therapists – denounces the lack of funds devoted to mental health services in a letter sent this week to the Italian Parliament.
This cry for help has been recently corroborated by science, as a mass study released two weeks ago looked at mental health conditions of the Italian population in relation to lockdown. With a sample of over 6 thousand people, the scientific research by Nature found a direct link between lockdown and an increase in depression but also confirmed that having a case of COVID-19 in the family has an impact on mental health too.
Marco Delmastro and Giorgia Zamariola, who co-wrote the scientific report, said: “Our findings highlight that the effect on mental health is related more broadly to the lockdown condition rather than the actual number of reported cases of deaths and infection.”
They found that certain factors, such as household living conditions and age, with younger people more at risk, would result in higher scores of depressive symptoms.
Despite the proven increase of mental health issues due to lockdown and other components of the pandemic, Italian services to assist with depression and anxiety have diminished regularly every year. According to an inquiry led by Cnop (The Italian Order of Psychologists), in 2019 only 1 out of ten citizens was able to access mental health services. This is due to the prohibitive waiting lists and the plummet in specialist numbers.
At a time when the society’s spotlight is pointed at our health, government implementations should not forget to look at mental health too, given the hard psychological repercussions of pandemic and isolation.