How lockdowns extinguish hope


  • In a study by the University of Basel, data reveals that one in five Swiss suffers severe depressive symptoms having been a year into the pandemic. And the most affected are young people.
  • “Today the social fabric is more fragile,” says psychologist Dieter Schürch. “The family is more fragile. Work is more fragile.”

The study wants to be certain if the third wave of the pandemic is not the disease anymore but the effect it will leavepsychological. According to the research, 18% of Swiss are reported having severe depressive symptoms, almost one in five.

According to the Swiss Corona Stress Study, based on the responses of 11,000 people, the level of stress among the Swiss during the last 12 months have been increasing with a rather alarming rate. Experts are concerned on the data on young people where post lockdown is marked with depressive disorders.

Compared to subjects over 65 years old, data show that only 6% report severe depressive symptoms. Meanwhile the 14 to 24 year-olds report 29% while 25 to 34 year-olds relate 21%.


It is the young who are most affected

“Young people have found themselves confronted with an exceptional situation which they have nevertheless been able to manage and interpret with great responsibility,” comments Ilario Lodi, director of Pro Juventute Svizzera Italiana (For the Young Switzerland-Italian Association).

“They have understood the drama of the moment and that their behavior could have negative effects on the whole community. I believe that not all adults have been equally as disciplined,” he adds.

It is a psychological burden the study brought to light.

“The degree of involvement and sensitivity of young people is reflected in the data of the study,” notes Lodi who adds, “Young people have been asked (and continue to be asked) to have an extraordinary ability to adapt, to reinvent themselves overnight , without however reflecting on the fact that they do not have a retrospective look that can place this moment in their journey of growth.”

In short, according to Lodi, the tools to contextualize the present are lacking, to do it with the right distance and the right involvement. Hence the greater anxiety and psychological stress experienced by the category.


“We no longer talk about hope”

“Today the social fabric is more fragile,” echoes psychologist Dieter Schürch. “The family is more fragile. Work is more fragile, as is the possibility of planning the future or the formation of our young people.

“In a very short time our lives are turned upside down and put to the test by an invisible enemy.”

Schürch is aware that serious mental disorders are manifestations of what psychiatrists call the new and rampant “pandemic trauma.”

“Not being able to put a face to the enemy triggers on the psychological level the underlying fears among the most vulnerable individuals. Dealing with this impalpable but terrible reality, that is capable of undermining our very existence, it provokes in these people the development of deep fears and monstrous fantasies.”

The theme of the invisible enemy, Schürch explains, has a particular significance even among the smallest. “How do you explain to them the existence of a danger linked to a virus by its nature is invisible?” “Also, the fear cannot be made concrete,” the professor adds.


Children see and feel what goes on around

He says children perceive changes within the family unit, from the habits, behavior of the other members to any tensions. “And this is the most dangerous aspect,” he continues, “because a child needs tranquility and security to develop his identity in complete safety.”

Another central aspect, according to Schürch, concerns the narration of the future. Today is completely absent.

“The uncertainty of the present has eliminated any discourse concerning the future. This will have an effect on your people and their vision of life. A boy, for instance, needs to know that he lives in a reality with in which something can be built. Where he can look to the future with hope and trust.”

This word “hope” has been completely excluded from our vocabulary, from the chronicle of the present. “Who speaks of hope today? Who promises something positive about the future?

“However, we cannot think that all this cannot be absorbed by the young people who overlook life,” Schürch says.

Another fundamental element, he notes, is the extraordinary speed with which our lives have been put to the test. This has had a major effect on the mental stability of many individuals. It’s normal, he explains, we haven’t had the time to metabolize the sometimes profound changes that have occurred. The time of mental digestion is fundamental for the stability of the individual.


An appeal to authorities

“We have the impression that all indicators of serious mental disorders are on the rise,” says Stephan Wenger. He is co-president of the Swiss Federation of Psychologies and Psychologists.

They appeal to authorities for immediate attention. Failure to treat these diseases could lead to disastrous consequences. “These,” Wenger stresses, “already cost billions to the economy and social insurance every year.”

For young people, the lack of confrontation with peers can result in a flattening of the days spent in their own room, or in an explosion of domestic conflicts due to the feeling of being more controlled within the walls of the house. All this can lead to a lack of stimuli and for this reason, the role of the family is absolutely central.

“The theme of depression is linked to the amplification of sadness. We become sad when we feel that we are losing something,” says doctor and psychotherapist of developmental age, Alberto Pellai.

“The question we must ask ourselves is: what are we losing? and how can we put it back in our life? With confinement, younger boys have lost very important pieces of life. Fewer social contacts and interactions with friends can lead to a loss of energy or motivation,” he says.

“Families must be very proactive in motivating children, overcoming their resistance in being involved in activities that inevitably have different formats,” Pellai says.

He advises families with kids to twin up with other families with kids and are of the same age for them to share experiences, carry out alliances, and doing activities that have some semblance of “normal” or what used to be normal.


Countermeasures proposed

People at risk of severe depressive symptoms are higher in subjects aged 14 to 24, the study showed and the federal experts affirmed.

Physical activities as a preventive measure was identified as preventive measure, as well as reducing school stress, compensation for losses attributable to protective measures, shouldering of financial costs for treatment or therapy, among others. (JSM/JuanManila)

Featured image: Depression by Lucas Pezeta

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