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Psychiatric patients left in blind spot amid Covid-19
  • By Song Soo-youn
  • Published 2020.07.08 15:57
  • Updated 2020.07.08 17:40
  • comments 0

The prolonged Covid-19 crisis has made it more difficult for mentally ill patients to receive timely treatment, an expert said.

A psychiatric patient’s recent attack on a psychiatrist in Jeonju, North Jeolla Province, was one case where patients with mental disordered missed the timing for treatment due to the delayed hospitalization amid Covid-19.

Professor Lee Hae-kook at the Psychiatry Department of Uijeongbu St. Mary’s Hospital pointed out the problem at a YouTube show Friday by K-Healthlog, a channel operated by The Korea Doctors’ Weekly.

Professor Lee Hae-kook at the Psychiatry Department of Uijeongbu St. Mary’s Hospital spoke about how Covid-19 affected psychiatric care and addictive behaviors at a YouTube show Friday by K-Healthlog, a channel operated by The Korea Doctors’ Weekly.

“Patients who must visit a doctor often ask to extend their prescription period. Alcoholics who hate to see the doctor won't come to the hospital using Covid-19 as an excuse and end up visiting the emergency room,” Lee said. Some depression patients, who have been holding up relatively well, visit the hospital because their symptoms reappeared after the Covid-19 outbreak.

The biggest problem is the increase of the reoccurrence of schizophrenia because Covid-19 made it extremely difficult to access them and recognize the need for treatment, Lee noted. Also, community services for such patients were disappearing due to infection risks.

“I think the recent violent psychiatric patient case is related to this phenomenon,” he said.

Lee went on to say that Korean hospitals suffered a shortage of isolated wards where patients with suspected relapse of schizophrenia could get quick Covid-19 testing and hospitalized. That was why hospitalizations of schizophrenia patients fell, and relapses of the disease rose, he said.

“We should develop a way to increase treatment opportunities for those who need mental health care despite Covid-19,” Lee said. “It is still controversial, but telemedicine could be an opportunity to do so.”

Lee, who also serves as executive director of the Korean Addiction Forum, said a recent survey showed that Covid-19 made Koreans spend more time on online gaming, smartphones, and pornography.

He worried that the pandemic left people no other option but to focus on what “stimulate" them.

For social distancing, people need “things that they can do,” rather than restrictions that they should not do. “In an already dense society, highlighting social distancing only made people more depressed and anxious,” he noted.

The government should provide consultations to help people have healthy hobbies, offer objectively verified ways to prevent viral infections, and encourage them to come to particular sites to have fun. “It’s been over six months since the Covid-19 outbreak began. Until when can the government ask people to be patient?” he added.

To make Covid-19 control and prevention sustainable, people need methods to reduce their psychological distance pleasantly, Lee stressed.

soo331@docdocdoc.co.kr

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