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24 Feb, 2021 12:45

Extent of mental health toll in Russia from Covid-19 pandemic revealed as number of those seeking help increased up to 30% in 2020

Extent of mental health toll in Russia from Covid-19 pandemic revealed as number of those seeking help increased up to 30% in 2020

With Covid-19 killing loved ones, and an increase in unemployment due to lockdown, the pandemic has caused immense mental health strain for millions of Russians. Now, statistics show that more and more people sought help in 2020.

That's according to Moscow daily Kommersant, which reported that the number of Russians seeking psychological or psychiatric assistance increased by between 10 percent to 30 percent depending on the region of the country.

In the capital, the newspaper revealed that calls to the Department of Labor and Social Protection's special psychological emergency phone number jumped up to 71,000 between March 1 and December 31, a 28 percent rise compared to the same period in 2019. Almost three-quarters of the calls were women (74.9%).

In St. Petersburg, the country's second city, the number of locals visiting psychiatrists increased 30 percent in 2020 compared to the year before.

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Outside of Russia's two biggest cities, Ufa in the Republic of Bashkiria also saw an increase of referrals. According to Ilgiz Timerbulatov, the chief psychotherapist from the regional Ministry of Health, many of the issues were caused by isolation and family conflicts. He also noted an increase in suicidal behavior in adolescents, thought to be caused by the forced prolonged stay in one house with their entire family.

“In 20 years of my practice, this is the first time I have encountered such a situation,” he said.

The newspaper also spoke to experts in other Russian regions, such as Voronezh and Penza, and discovered a similar picture.

However, while much of the blame can be given to isolation and an interruption of routine, scientists have revealed that depression could be a prolonged side-effect of being infected with Covid-19. Speaking to Kommersant, associate professor Marina Artemyeva noted that psychological issues may develop due to the illness.

“When studying the effects of acute respiratory infections caused by other coronaviruses, it has been noticed that 30% of patients then go to see neurologists. In the long term, psychosis and depression in 10% [of patients],” she said.

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In November, speaking to Russian newspaper RBK, pulmonologist Alexander Karabinenko noted that mental disorders can occur with every serious infectious disease.

“The brain's central functions can be damaged due to toxic effects, and therefore can form a toxic cerebral edema. And almost everyone has depression,” he said.

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