Topics of the day right in the middle: Fear – “like on the ten-meter board”

in the middle

Status: November 19, 2021 2:46 p.m.

Mental illness has increased in the pandemic. Around 18 million people are affected in Germany. A patient reports about her panic, which has been triggered since Corona when she meets others.

Miriam Berg is afraid, afraid of meeting people – and of being infected with pathogens. For a year and a half, the young woman has not been able to lead a normal everyday life because of her illness and has no longer been able to work, although she loves her job as a teacher. “Before I came here to the clinic, I hardly left the house,” says Berg. She tormented herself once a week to go shopping, and she never saw friends and family again.

Fought alone for months

Even meeting three or four people caused violent panic in her. “You know that fear is irrational, but it still doesn’t work. It feels like standing on a ten-meter board and not being able to jump off,” says Berg, describing her feelings.

Months passed while she fought her fear alone. Finally, about four months ago, she got a place in the Rheinhessen specialist clinic in Alzey near Mainz. The clinic is a treatment center for psychiatry, psychotherapy, psychosomatics, child and adolescent psychiatry and neurology. Miriam Berg is treated in the day clinic. That means: she spends the days in the clinic, in the evening she goes home.

The patients in the day clinic have very different mental illnesses: Depression, anxiety, addictions, eating or obsessive-compulsive disorders. The chief physician of the acute psychiatric department at the Rheinhessen specialist clinic is Christoph Gerth. “Mental illnesses are frequent and usually easy to treat. It is important that those affected seek professional help in good time,” says the doctor. The therapy programs are always “multimodal”, ie a combination of drug therapy, psychotherapy and additional offers such as group or occupational therapy.

The fear is irrational, “but it still doesn’t work,” says Miriam Berg.

Bild: Lucretia Gather/SWR

Learning to endure fear

Miriam Berg also takes part in occupational therapy offers in the day clinic. It was there that she discovered drawing for herself: “Drawing is good because I can relax. My thoughts no longer circle and my tension is reduced.”

Berg’s treatment also includes regular discussions with doctors and psychotherapists, as well as group therapy. At first she found it difficult to participate in these groups. She now appreciates the exchange with other patients. In group therapy she learns, among other things, how to better control her emotions and how to cope with her fear.

Social acceptance instead of stigmatization

“The positive thing about group therapy sessions is that the patients can also benefit from the experiences of others and feel understood. If you are mentally ill, you often feel lonely and socially unacceptable – here you can see that you are not with your illness alone in the world, “explains Sabine Böseler, specialist nurse for psychiatry.

Head physician Gerth would like society to deal more openly with mental illnesses. “A psychiatric illness can affect anyone. And it has to be treated, just like physical illnesses. I wish that people with psychiatric illnesses are not stigmatized. Unfortunately, that is still often the case.”

Pandemic increases anxiety and depression

Especially in the corona pandemic, the number of people with mental illness has increased, says Gerth. This is also confirmed by a broad analysis by the Leipniz Institute for Resilience Research at the University of Mainz. After that, the pandemic increased depression and anxiety in particular.

According to the German Society for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Psychosomatics and Neurology (DGPPN), the most common clinical pictures include anxiety disorders, depression and alcohol and drug addiction. For the 18 million people affected and their relatives, mental illness is often associated with a lot of suffering and leads to severe restrictions in social and professional life.

Second leading cause of sick leave

In addition, there would be economic effects: According to the DGPPN, mental illnesses are the second most common cause of sick leave. And the most common reason for early retirement. The experts assume that the direct and indirect costs that result from this will increase even further in the future.

“We are not monsters”

Miriam Berg is happy to be treated in the Rheinhessen specialist clinic. After four months in the day clinic, she hopes to be able to return to her job as an educator at some point – or to another day-to-day work.

And she wishes that her illness would be better accepted and that the mentally ill would not have to hide: “Here in the day clinic, we are not sad to the death all day. We laugh together and have many good days together. We are completely normal People – and not monsters. “

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