Once, a priori, the worst of the coronavirus pandemic has passed, the health system does not rest and looks at the consequences that Covid-19 is having and will have beyond the merely physical, preparing for what it can become a tsunami of mental disorders.
At the moment, there are no major variations in the section on serious disorders, but citizens already have more insomnia, anxiety and a worse mood than two years ago, warns the Mental Health coordinator of the Cantabrian Health Service, Oscar Fernandez. “There if it shows,” he stresses.
Both this psychologist and the head of Psychiatry at the Marques de Valdecilla University Hospital, Jesus Artal, have talked about how work is being done in this professional field, for which the Congress of Deputies has taken the first step towards approving a Comprehensive Law on Mental Health, which proposes maximum attention times and an increase in the number of professionals.
The effects of Covid-19 are already being seen, above all, in the mental health of the young population and in children, but “it has been said that this invisible wave will reach adults also due to socioeconomic conditions,” says Oscar Fernandez, which calls to “be prepared”.
However, in the short term, the concern is to respond to the situation of children and young people because “if it is not addressed, it will have consequences in the future.”
The challenge is double. On the one hand, to respond to the increased demand for care and, on the other, to prevent cases through education and social services. The game, social networks and, in general, the inappropriate use of technology are some of the mental health workhorses that have come to stay in recent years.
The authorized voice to talk about mental health is the head of Psychiatry at the Marques de Valdecilla University Hospital. Jesus Artal warns of this “tsunami of mental health problems generated by the pandemic”. “The good news is that it hasn’t arrived in adults yet. It probably will and we have to prepare,” agrees Artal.
This psychiatrist explains that most of the population has suffered an increase in some symptoms such as irritability, insomnia, substance use or fear, although “almost never with enough intensity to consider it a disorder.” However, for people predisposed to mental health problems, the pandemic has been a “pathology trigger”.
The “hard figures” (psychiatric hospitalizations, emergencies or suicides) have not yet arrived, although Artal points out that “they are usually late” with respect to the demand for care, which has already grown by about 20%.
“Optimist by nature”, the head of Psychiatry at Valdecilla insists that the same stress has not been experienced since World War II, but recalls that, until now, “all misfortunes have been overcome, with greater or lesser fortune”. In addition, he hopes that this wave of disorders caused by Covid-19 in adults “will be attenuated and plateau”. “That gives us time, let’s get ready,” he asks.

Suicide is still something taboo
Another problem to address, in this historical situation, is suicide, which the Cantabria Mental Health coordinator regrets has always been surrounded by “a certain taboo”, because it is “painful to talk about”.
Oscar Fernandez acknowledges that there has always been “a tacit pact” between the media and health professionals to “silence it”, but considers that “it must be talked about responsibly” and is committed to preventive activities because the cases have been increasing in recent decades, although he does not believe that there is “a suicide pandemic”.
In his opinion, Cantabria starts “from a privileged situation” with respect to the rest of the country, since it has the lowest suicide figures, just as Spain moves in better numbers than Europe. “But we have to learn. Each individual suicide is a tragedy for the person and their environment, we have to try to bend that curve,” he says.

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