People across Europe are finding increasingly inventive ways to protect themselves against the psychological risks of isolation.
In Italy they are singing and sharing recipes. In France, humour is saving the day. In Spain, communal staircases have become the new running tracks, and in Germany, ordinarily disorderly hackers are busy coding corona-busting apps.
As hundreds of millions of Europeans languish in lockdown, people are finding increasingly inventive ways to keep themselves entertained – and to counter what the continent’s psychologists warning are the very real risks of confinement.
Like everyone else, Italy’s 60 million citizens, who went into lockdown on 9 March, have been “asked to make sacrifices”, said Sara Raginelli, a psychologist in Ancona. “And as we live in a rather dramatic way, our mental health is being challenged.”
In a survey during the first week of Italy’s confinement, 93% of respondents said they felt at least a little anxious, while 42% described a distinct drop in their mood and 28% reported that they were not sleeping well.
Italians are entitled to a free online consultation from the health ministry, which has warned of a “psychological emergency”, saying people risk being “overwhelmed by fear of a insidious virus that has banned us from hugging and being close to others”.
Some 9,000 psychologists are involved in the #psicologionline scheme, offering phone or video consultations aimed also at countering the “heartbreaking effects of the daily death toll, warlike scenes, and easy risk of infection if we don’t stay home”.
Some degree of anxiety, of course, is only normal. Borwin Bandelow, from Göttingen in Germany, said humans developed into social creatures to survive, so isolation was an unnatural state for most. “In the past we lived in tribes, and those who broke away from those tribes had very little chance,” he told Der Spiegel.
It’s about knowing this isn’t an individual and isolated suffering, but a collective suffering.
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