Covid19 patients and their families deserve free psychological support

Blog post by Marica Micallef

Some weeks ago, the Nationalist MP Mario Galea was the special guest in the weekly programme, Simon Mercieca Jiddiskuti, held on Xejk TV on Wednesday at 8.30 pm. Mario Galea came in his personal capacity and among others discussed the Covid19 measures. He stated that medical personnel would be needing psychological support. I completely endorse his statement. Frontliners need psychological support.

Yet there is more to this statement. I can understand the importance that is being given to the mental health of the medical staff. I understand that, as a nurse, Mario Galea, rightly so shows particular interest in this sector. But one needs to admit that this pandemic is not only about frontliners.

The Covid19 measures are negatively affecting the whole society. Some have lost their business. Some have lost a loved one. Some have lost their job. Some cannot afford the rent anymore. Some have left Malta. Some saw their marriage fall apart; some miss meeting their friends over a coffee or drink; some can’t go out with their whole family because they live in different households and so forth… It is an endless list. We are all human beings and we all come with emotions. So, the statement “According to international research, the mental impact that the pandemic will leave on frontliners will be devastating, and could even lead to post-traumatic stress disorder” confirms the dramatic consequences that the Covid19 measures are leaving on the whole of society. Unfortunately, the mainstream media is only providing a partial picture of the situation. The mainstream media should speak more about the negative effects that these measures are leaving on all the sectors of society.

But returning to the health sector, what about the hospital providing free psychological support to patients who are lucid in ITU? When my dad woke up, he first went into disbelief as to how long he had been hospitalised; then he could not understand why he had loads of machines; then he could not understand why he could not walk and why no one is visiting him in the evening. This man had been sedated for 6 weeks – 6 weeks which is not part of his memory and will never be! There was a particular week when he went into denial and used to cry because he wanted to go back home. He even tried to stand up and fell onto the ground. What about psychological support to patients during their recovery?

Alongside this, what about psychological support for their family members, including those whose loved ones passed away during this pandemic? Because of my dad’s experience, I still go through a fluctuation of emotions and I still go to therapy myself. I still wake up not knowing if I lived a nightmare or not. I still have fear dad might develop some complications in the future. Dad still complains of some changes in his body, which he never had before he was hospitalised.

Why does the hospital lack this kind of holistic approach? Why do our Health Authorities base everything only on medicine and treating a patient?

Why aren’t there any external stimuli in the hospital, to keep a patient’s brain active? Televisions were scrapped and unless a patient is able to read a book or is provided with a private tablet or laptop like we did with dad, patients are just left to sleep and stare at ceilings all day long. Research has it that the brain plays an important role in healing but it certainly is not being stimulated at hospital.

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