May 16, 2021

The forbidden embrace in the times of the coronavirus and its impact on the psyche

The coronavirus is causing suffering beyond that caused by the numbers of infected and deceased and that is affecting the psyche of the entire society, having made prohibited embraces and any physical contact, making it urgent to incorporate psychosocial help to the list of priorities to face the current pandemic

“The most terrible thing of all is the lack of physical human contact and, therefore, psychosocial help is very important. All over the world we are going to lose something that we have grown up with, the embrace of our parents, when we lose a being dear, “said the president of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRC), Italian Francesco Rocca, who heads the world’s largest humanitarian network, which works thanks to 14 million volunteers who come to aid for victims of disasters or conflicts and also for the most vulnerable groups in society.

“Even in disaster situations or in conflict areas we can hug if we are afraid. Now this is not possible,” Rocca said by videoconference from northern Italy, where he evaluates the best way to continue helping the Italian health system, drowned by dozens. thousands of cases of coronavirus and mourning the 8,100 deaths that this disease has left in a month.


Rocca pointed out that the advancement of the coronavirus goes hand in hand with the increase in cases of depression and also in suicides, in circumstances in which mentally fragile people are isolated, including drug addicts who do not obtain the substances they consume.

“It is something that comes to light in the discussions we have had with nurses and doctors,” said the head of the IFRC, who has just formulated an international petition to raise $ 566 million and finance the action of the national societies of the Cross. Red and Red Crescent (in Muslim countries) against coronavirus.

Confinement measures issued by dozens of countries in the world have interrupted psychological and psychiatric treatments, which, added to isolation and social distance, can put those suffering from mental disorders on the brink of abyss.

Healthcare personnel also face inconceivable stress in a normal period, which is why the IFRC has opened a phone line in Italy to attend to them.

This week an Italian nurse took her own life, mired in the anguish that caused her to think that she had become a vector of the virus, one that she had tested positive for and that posed a threat to others.

“The pressure they are bearing is unprecedented. Doctors, nurses and aides work against the clock, but they are not only physically exhausted, but also mentally because they are facing defeat,” Rocca reflected.

He described the situation of a hospital in northern Italy as that of a space where the separation of services has disappeared and all focus on snatching the infected from the hands of death, even doctors with less common specialties, while Physiotherapists have been given the task of dealing with the corpses.

In the midst of this tragedy, the most basic gestures of comfort are banned.

Rocca remembers with emotion an Italian Red Cross volunteer who “lost her mother yesterday and whose only way to recover was by quickly going to work for the others, since she cannot even watch over her.”

The volunteer cried inconsolably two meters from the IFRC president, according to himself, but “he could not give her a hug, as well as relatives of the sick, although they probably will not see them again.”


In Italy, as in Spain, France and other countries where COVID-19 has spread exponentially, Red Cross volunteers not only support hospitals, but also make life easier for the elderly and chronically ill who cannot leave from their house.

They pick up their medicine prescriptions or shopping lists, go to the pharmacy or the supermarket and then deliver them to them.

They are probably the only human contact these people have in days or weeks.

Although his profession as a humanitarian worker normally forces him to be positive, this time Rocca does not allow it and warns that the marginalized and those who depend on small jobs that give them just to live will star in a social explosion at any time, since the stop of entire countries does not allow them to win anything.

“In the most difficult neighborhoods of big cities, in a few weeks we will see social problems. This is a bomb that can explode at any time,” he said.

And, addressing the governments, he assured: “This is not the time to be optimistic, but to prepare contingency plans. They must prepare their hospitals, dedicate them to COVID, look for ventilators, even if they are expensive, they do not have to waste time, it is time Act”.

Isabel Saco


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