Venezuela: The economic crisis and the epidemic are a perfect combination of deteriorating mental health


  Alvarado attempted suicide twice (Federico Parra/AFP)</p><div><p>Captures Maria Gabriela Tablera, who attempted suicide during lockdown in<a href=""> Venezuela</a> where . is added <a href="">psychological problems </a>Linked to the epidemic to the political and economic crises, her breath and says "not being able to go out, not being able to do anything... all made me feel <a href="">depressed</a>".

The 25-year-old film student who lived off small freelance jobs, managed to survive by selling candy bars and cookies.

Like anywhere else in the world, Venezuela has seen a rise in anxiety and depression levels in its population with the COVID-19 pandemic. But here, the health crisis was added to eight years of stagnation, growing poverty, hyperinflation that reduced purchasing power, and a tense political situation with a regime not recognized by part of the international community.

The country, with a population of 30 million, has been facing a second strong epidemic since last March. It has recorded nearly 2,700 deaths out of about 240,000 cases of Covid-19, according to official figures. These are statistics considered “wrong” by the opposition, while the hospitals are full.

The epidemic is the “straw that broke the camel’s back”, and constitutes a “fertile ground” for the development of mental disorders, according to Juan Carlos Canga, president of the Federation of Psychologists of Venezuela.

According to the Venezuelan Observatory of Violence, a reference non-governmental organization in the absence of official data, the number of suicides tripled between 2015 and 2019, and thus before the pandemic, reaching three suicides per day (22 per week) in 2020 with the coronavirus.

endless tunnel
Guide Jonathan Alvarado, 27, committed suicide twice. The epidemic has exacerbated his problems, and he is now unemployed. The economic crisis had caused a decline in its activity, but the epidemic and the closure measures had a significant impact.

Santo Angel Falls, Gran Sabana, the beaches of Morrocoy and Falcon… “I took people on tours… Before the pandemic I was doing well” and was earning up to “a thousand dollars” a month, says Alvarado.

He added, “But now, I don’t see the end of the tunnel. How am I going to get by without income. I live with my meager savings but time will come and it will run out. You’re stuck at home and doing nothing. It tires you more.”

Last August, the Pan American Health Organization reported an unprecedented “mental health crisis” across the continent, due to the isolation caused by the pandemic. In November, WHO stressed that this would continue until the virus was brought under control.

In Venezuela, authorities alternated between so-called “lightened” weeks (shops open) and “tight” weeks (closed while keeping pharmacies and food stores open), but in March with the second wave, the government canceled the flexi-week.

The consequences of this were immediately apparent through the free telephone service set up by the Federation of Psychologists of Venezuela. “We got twice as many calls in January and February,” said Paula Hernandez, a psychologist who has been receiving calls.

“Half of the calls were to report anxiety attacks, panic attacks and sleep disturbances,” the 32-year-old psychologist explained in her small office in Caracas.

She also deals with some cases of depression and suicidal tendencies, but noted that in most cases “people are aware that there are other alternatives.”

Suicide is a taboo in this Catholic and conservative country, but social media has made it possible to open up a bit, by broadcasting appeals for help as well as to shed light on the topic and help people in difficulty.

(France Brush)


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