The COVID-19 pandemic has not only triggered a global infection, but also two mental health conditions: anxiety and depression.
In the first year of the pandemic, the global prevalence of these two conditions increased by 25%, as revealed World Health Organization (WHO).
The analysis highlights that “concerns about possible increases in mental health conditions had already led 90% of the countries surveyed to include mental health and psychosocial support in their response plans to COVID-19, but important gaps still persist. and concerns.”
“The information we now have about the impact of COVID-19 on the world’s mental health is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the agency’s director general. “This is a wake-up call to all countries to pay more attention to mental health and do a better job of supporting the mental health of their populations.”
This rise in the prevalence of mental health problems has coincided with serious disruptions in access to services that treat them, leaving huge gaps in care for those who need it most.
The lack of diagnosis, which prevails in various regions of the globe, including Latin America and the Caribbean, aggravates the problem.
This is precisely what is highlighted by an investigation carried out with 4,881 individuals from Argentina, Ecuador, Mexico, Paraguay, Uruguay, Colombia and El Salvador, which revealed high levels -from moderate to severe- of anxiety and depression, above the average, since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The detected high levels of anxiety and depression were first evident among health workers, who have been on the front lines since the start of the pandemic. In Latin America, the HEROES report (The COVID-19 Health Care Workers Study) showed that between 14.7% and 22% of health workers presented consistent symptoms of depression in 2020.
Research for the HEROES report, conducted by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) in Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, and Uruguay with 14,502 health workers, emphasized the urgency to develop strategies to help this population highly exposed not only to coronavirus but also to mental frailty, as well as safer work environments.
These strategies, experts say, should not be delayed and should be implemented alongside actions to combat the infection.
In the same way, people should take control of their mental health as they do with other conditions, and consult specialists at the first symptoms of depression and anxiety.
what is depression
Depression is a complex disorder that can have many causes: child abuse, having suffered domestic violence, the death of a loved one, even a failed relationship are the most common scenarios that usually trigger the disorder.
But the spectrum is much broader: an accident, low self-esteem, wounds that won’t heal, medications the person is taking for other conditions (such as beta-blockers, statins, corticosteroids, hormonal medications), a family history of depression, the possibilities are so many that only a specialist will be able to get to the source and recommend appropriate treatments.
It is a mood disorder that causes a constant or cyclical feeling of desolation and loss of interest, in almost all aspects of the person’s life.
It is not easy to detect because it is “camouflaged” in a state of temporary sadness, or even stress.
Surely during your annual medical check-up, your GP will ask you about your state of mind, can detect warning signs, and take the first step in what will be a chain of help.
The American Psychiatric Association suggests that combining antidepressants with psychological treatment works well for most patients. Combining strategies has an explanation: people tend to abandon pills more easily than psychologists. If this occurs, the therapist will balance to get the treatment back on track.
It’s not a passing sadness
Sadness is a normal human emotion, depression is a mental state that it is not. Many times, the two words are confused or used as synonyms, especially in the Hispanic community, when saying that a person is “sad”, when in reality they may be suffering from depression and need help.
The SOL Study (Study of Latinos), which was carried out for a decade in different Latino communities in the United States, found that 27% of Latinos living in the country have symptoms of depression.
Of all the Latino communities, the one with the most symptoms of depression was the Puerto Rican, followed by the Cuban.
An interesting distinction explained by Dr. Guy Winch, author of “Emotional First Aid: Healing Rejection, Guilt, Failure and Other Everyday Hurts,” is that, in general, we are sad about something. There are triggers for sadness, such as a difficult event, a loss, a breakup. It’s a temporary feeling, and in a short period of time, it fades, it gets over, and suddenly we’re not sad anymore.
On the other hand, depression invades all aspects of life, it is as if life were suddenly painted gray. And the word “less” begins to rule: everything is less interesting, less attractive, less important. Nothing worth. He masters anger and frustration, and it takes longer and longer to rearm.
Many times, the same person is not able to recognize himself in that emotional swamp, and it is a friend, a partner, a loved one, who begins to see the warning signs. It is time to ask for help.
Depression is one of the most common mental health conditions globally, with about 350 million people suffering from it.
In Latin America, 5% of the population suffers from it, although the percentage of people who receive treatment is very low, indicates the Pan American Health Organization (WHO).
The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that about 16 million people are living with depression in the United States.
The entity identifies the following symptoms as the most noticeable warning signs, although they may not be the only ones:
- A state of permanent irritability
- Changes in appetite and weight
- Sleep disorders (can be insomnia or sleep a lot)
- Feeling tired or a feeling of sluggishness during the day
- have very low energy
- Having feelings of guilt, or feeling that nothing makes sense
- Problems with the ability to focus on an activity, or easily lose concentration.
- Losing the ability to make decisions
- Having thoughts of death or suicide
There are “smiling depressives”
In the collective imagination, the depressive person is the one who has a sad, hopeless face, who locks himself in his house and can barely function. However, not everyone with depression fits that stereotype.
An article in Psychology Today explains that there is a form of depression masked behind a facade of happiness that is defined as “smiling depression.”
The person with “smiling depression” seems to be happy, but internally has depressive symptoms. This form of depression often goes unnoticed. Those who suffer from it discard it, and put aside their own feelings. They may be unaware of their depression, or want to hide it for fear of being seen as weak.
Why is it very dangerous?
Experts agree that it is very difficult to detect “smiling depression” (its technical term is atypical depression) and therefore treat it.
The hallmark of “smiling depression”, some also call it the clown sadness, is precisely sadness. The smile and the external facade is a defense mechanism, an attempt to hide the true feelings that are undermining the person’s soul.
Smiling depression shares symptoms with the traditional form: feelings of anxiety, fear, anger, fatigue, irritability, hopelessness, and despair. Those who suffer from this and other forms of depression may also experience trouble sleeping, an inability to enjoy activities that were once pleasurable, and a loss of libido.
Of course, everyone’s experience is different. It is possible to feel only one or several of these symptoms.
People who suffer from this form of depression often do not offer any indication of their problem to the outside world. You can even be the funny friend, the life of the party.
They often hold a full-time job, have a home, participate in sports, and have a fairly active social life. With his mask on, everything looks great, even perfect. However, under the mask they suffer from sadness, panic attacks, low self-esteem, insomnia and, in some cases, may have suicidal thoughts.
And this can be particularly dangerous. In classic depression, the person simply does not have the strength to act. But the patient with “smiling depression” has more energy to make her thoughts come true.