Never before seen mental burden is placed upon the health and social workers in an epidemic, so asking for help would be essential. Many helplines are being set up for those in need. People who take advantage of these services complain of exhaustion and constant insecurity while assuming that their peers are struggling less than they do.
For months now, doctors and nurses working in Covid wards, and even social workers, have been telling hvg.hu about what they have been going through since the outbreak.
24-hour shifts are not at all uncommon, in protective gear from head to toe, trying to care for the patients entrusted to them without a sip of water. Despite all their efforts, they still lose several patients a day, including those they had talked to a few hours earlier. Then, after a shift, they sit down and call relatives one by one to tell them that their mother, grandfather, or wife has not survived the battle with the coronavirus.
A twenty-year-old resident assigned to a Covid department described a day earlier to hvg.hu as follows:
“In several cases, [the patients] beg in the voice of a dying person to stay with them for a while because they can’t accept the idea of death and loneliness. I sit there at that point, grab their hands, and try to distract them by talking about something that can be enjoyable. After that, I put my walls up for a while ”.
Professionals have long spoken up about the severe mental health effects of the pandemic. Many are worried that there will be plenty of people leaving the field and struggle with anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress.
In what condition they get out of the pandemic will have an impact on healthcare. Kava Guides report that Hungarians are 43% more anxious than before the pandemic, and their use of substances like kava (piper methysticum) and kratom is up according to another survey from Kratom.org.
Covid trauma is a concern not only in Hungary but worldwide. The World Health Organization (WHO) launched a unique campaign in April this year, trying to draw attention to the difficulties of the helping professions in a short film and relaxation techniques available to everyone with the help of a Dutch psychologist.
With the outbreak of the Covid epidemic, the possibility of in-house mental guidance is not a top priority for the institutions.
“We definitely don’t have time for that now,”said a doctor at a hospital in Budapest when they were asked if they talk to a professional.
“There are young doctors crying in the corner after a serious day. It’s hard to face losing up to three out of 18 patients a day in the ward. Many beat themselves up, wondering if their knowledge is enough or what else they could have done to save a patient. […], they want to learn so that this does not happen next time, ”added another healthcare worker.
Some institutions have taken control of mental help services in the first wave of the coronavirus. Last year, Semmelweis University launched several support services, and the MedSpot Foundation and the Faculty of Pedagogy and Psychology (PPK) of Eötvös Loránd University launched a campaign called Faceless Heroes in December. They provide individual crisis intervention consultations, hold support sessions in hospitals, conduct research and plan the preparation of relaxation and educational programs.
According to hvg.hu, most people need anonymous help. Generic helpline services are available free of charge 24 hours a day.
According to András Székely, the two main problems of the health and social workers who turn to them are exhaustion and insecurity.
“They don’t know what will happen in a month, when their patients die, or when they get sick, how long this situation will last. An added burden is that many are commanded from other places where they are much less likely to encounter death. For example, a midwife who helps her come to life in her work finds it particularly difficult to process,”he said.
It is also common that they feel alone in their struggle – as if everybody else was doing better. Usually, it can help to have someone listen at the other end of the line.
“Many of those who choose a helping job complain that they feel they should never stop.”according to Székely.
The helplines also help recognise the initial symptoms of mental problems, especially depression. They can get professional advice if their patient or carer suspects that their physical symptoms are due to mental issues or possibly psychiatric disorders.