Distress exacerbated by the pandemic

Pascaline David

Special Collaboration

June 20, 2020

Une détresse exacerbée par la pandémie

Illustration: Tiffet
The budget quebecers ‘ mental health is insufficient, according to the associations interviewed.

This text is part of the special issue to mental Health

The COVID-19 was a catalyst for psychological distress in persons already affected by mental illness. A difficult situation also for the loved ones, who have had to adapt quickly. Several associations, who are worried about a “second wave psychological” and put in place initiatives with little resources, ask for concrete measures to the government.

Symptoms exacerbated by the isolation and distancing physical, rise in calls for help, post-traumatic stress disorder among people working in the health care network ; all of the observations made by the stakeholders since the beginning of the confinement.

“Several people who hadn’t contacted us since a long time have again appealed to us during the pandemic,” says Martin Enault, president of the board of directors of Revive, an organization coming to the aid of people who have an anxiety disorder, a depressive or bipolar and their loved ones.

Revive has had to accelerate the development of its virtual tools to compensate for the disappearance of the face-to-face and respond to the rising call for help. This is the case of the program I advance !, clinically validated and consists of five workshops health self-management for people affected by anxiety, depression or bipolarity.

“It is not normal that people with mental illnesses are prescribed medications without the benefit of an education to understand what they live,” adds Mr. Enault. Self-management puts the patient in control of its decisions. “

If self-management does not replace treatments like psychotherapy, it is offered as a complement to these, in order to acquire the necessary tools of awareness and control. It may be possible to reduce symptoms and prevent relapses.

Need a break

Relatives have a tendency to forget that they, too, must take care of their mental health. “The mask is in the first line, but because of the taboos, it is often reluctant to seek help, says René Cloutier, director general of the Network Before cracking. In the current context, it is all the more important that the relatives are not slow to contact us. “

The Network, a federation of non-profit, brings together 41 associations in Quebec who are working to break the isolation and to support the members of the entourage of a person with a mental illness. It responds to more than 60,000 requests for assistance annually.

Prior to the pandemic, these families were already three times more distress compared to the general population. This has been exacerbated by the reduction in sudden support networks. “The fact of being confined in the home had important implications, as the difficulty for visiting relatives or to guarantee the supply of food,” says René Cloutier.

Usually, the entourage is also in need of respite and spaces for exchange with other families quivivent the same situation. This respite was not possible during the pandemic, and the telephone discussions are not always easy, according to Mr. Cloutier, as soon as the close living in the same dwelling.

Rethinking the support

The member associations have had to reorganise their services during the crisis in order to abide by the guidelines of the public Health. A discussion group in Facebook, named Always there in spite of everything, was created aumois of April. Free, animated by the speakers of each of the associations and enables families to share and ask questions.

“Parents who live with a child who had suicidal ideation, for example, can express themselves and find support from people who understand them “, explains Jean-Philippe Dion, a spokesperson for the Network Before cracking.

Jean-Philippe Dion grew up with a mother plagued by mental health problems. From a young age, so he has been with this reality, which involves moments of crisis and stress.” You never know which way to turn exactly, how to help a person who has ideas psychotic, ” he adds. The Network allows vraimentd’be accompanied in these questions, and it is even more important in the context of a pandemic. “

Several member organizations of the Network have also developed training courses by video conferencing. A service enjoyed by more young people and people who remain in remote areas. However, the activities in the presence will always be preferred and put back on the foot gradually, as they respond to a need for significant contact.

The government expected

The budget quebecers in health care is insufficient, according to the associations interviewed. “This is not normal, nor that it will take between 6 and 18 months to see a psychiatrist or a psychologist,” says Martin Enault. This makes 40 years that this sector was divested and live with the consequences. “

It suggests, in particular, a national agreement, allowing all of the hospitals, CIUSSS and CLSC to have access to their workshops and to their services in order to decongest the system and reach more Quebeckers who would not have the means currently.

To the Network Before crack, a “second wave of psychological” is inevitable. “We expect a strong increase in the needs of members around here a few months, said Rene Cloutier. It is hoped that the government will make concrete efforts to ensure that associations are able to respond to this increase. “

According to him, the funding should at least double to offset the lack of resources present. “Community-based organizations can alleviate the pressure on the health network, so it would be advantageous for the government to better support us “, he says.

Positive stress

The body of The mooring offers accommodation at low cost for persons in a situation of psychological distress. Usually, nine residents are welcomed, but The mooring has had to limit its admissions in half. “As the situation continued, there has been an increase in seizures and suicidal ideation,” underlines Karine Bérubé, general manager.

But The mooring has observed another interesting phenomenon : the positive stress. “It was a very pejorative stress, but at the core, it is necessary, explains Karine Bérubé, president. This is what can give us the energy to act. “

The teams of the organization have been very creative in order to adapt to the situation and innovate, according to Ms. Bérubé, whether in the development of new services or their own skills. “One of our members, aged 75 years, quickly learned to use Zoom, for example, while another has made of the masks,” she adds.

A system of telephone support and a virtual group have been put in place, and capsules have been developed to continue to inform beneficiaries and their families through social networks.


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