Mental health and mental hygiene in periods of confinement
Press release from the National Academy of Medicine
March 30, 2020
Confinement, especially prolonged, leads to a sudden loss of freedom of movement, limited social relations and an emotional isolation. The most frequent psychological consequences are anxiety and depressive symptoms, with a fear of dying leading to a permanent state of stress, which can lead to a true state of post-traumatic stress.
In addition to the fear of dying, there is also uncertainty about work and the financial situation for the immediate future, leading to frailty, a source of depression, with ideas of suicide. By suspending all activity, confinement reinforces the feeling of powerlessness and professional anxiety in relation to the risk of unemployment. Reinsurance can only come through the rapid implementation of financial compensation for job loss or partial unemployment.
Children may also suffer from confinement and show symptoms of anxiety or fits of tears, as well as regressive symptoms such as secondary enuresis.
The National Academy of Medicine recommends:
1. For adults:
– to make the effort to stimulate oneself to structure days as much as possible by giving a regular rhythm to activities, in particular teleworking, sports, reading, writing, seeking information, exchanges with friends;
– to protect oneself as much as possible from anxiety-provoking looped information by news channels or social networks, by listening to them only at certain times of the day and by giving priority to reliable and scientifically validated information;
– to maintain social links through regular contacts (telephone, internet…) with family and close friends, especially if they are elderly or isolated;
– to take care of elderly neighbours living alone, possibly by leaving provisions at their door or on their doorstep;
– to keep physically active indoors;
– not to start, resume or increase alcohol consumption, which in low doses has an anxiolytic effect that is quickly followed by an anxiety-provoking and depressogenic effect.
2. For children:
– to explain the reason for the confinement and to answer clearly the questions they ask themselves using appropriate vocabulary;
– to maintain a rhythm of life close to the usual rhythm, both for waking up and mealtimes and for school work supervised by the parents;
– to incite them to play and draw.
3. For more fragile subjects, particularly those who are or were in care for psychological disorders, to ensure that psychiatric follow-up by telephone is maintained, and that the usual treatment is available and taken, in order to combat the risk of aggravation or even decompensation.
The National Academy of Medicine recommends that all subjects in a situation of psychological distress and those in need of telephone psychological support should be able to have recourse to it, particularly for isolated persons. The establishment of a dedicated toll-free number, in conjunction with the Medical and Psychological Emergency Units (CUMP) and psychiatrists and psychologists trained in telephone listening, is essential.