Pandemic aggravates mental health and drug related problems

Leo Olivero

More people carrying weight of the world on their shoulders?

Over many years I have worked, helped, assisted and advised many people and families with one of the most serious social problems ever ‘drug abuse’. I myself have been concerned, I have also been contacted several times during the last 3 months of pandemic confinement by people, who are beside themselves with worry or about a loved one’s suffering from some from substance abuse and more recently with others regrading serious mental health issues.

However, I can only really comment, with any accuracy, about the situation before the pandemic regarding ‘substance abuse’ and services. Where generally, things had taken a turn for the worse since the start of the year. There was with little by the way of forward planning, particularly, in bringing a whole range of drug services on a national scale, to those that required help across the board, instead of underfunding this serious social scourge which continues to grow, which is a recorded fact!

Medically, it was always known, the pandemic and isolation were going to affect mental health, never far away was those people suffering from substance abuse problems. Some of these people and family members I know personally, others have approached me through the latter, they are all naturally concerned. Where drug issues are the problem within the household, people are critical, that not enough has been done by the government to offer the right support and services to individual and families suffering from these problems. Hardly surprising, when the situation with drugs was slumping much before the pandemic took hold!

Staying Connected During the Pandemic Was Critical For Many

It is a fact, that staying connected to support services during the pandemic, was always going to be critical for many people and families who are struggling with mental health issues and substance abuse addiction and recovery problems. People, are social creatures, who crave connecting with others. The latter point, obviously becomes even more apparent, for those struggling with mental health and addiction, since social isolation can cause these issues to become particularly difficult to manage. Unfortunately, this has been the case with many. I can report this from those people who I have had contact with.

Many people, suffering with these type social problems ‘do not always think straight or as coherent as a normal person would’, it follows then, that they will not act, or necessarily do what you or I would think to be the most logical thing to do. But what has not helped, since the pandemic forced governments worldwide to impose strict safety and travel restrictions, a new lifestyle of hunkering down at home, social distancing, and zoom or online calls has emerged in many places including Gibraltar. 

Among the many disruptions to normal life some people, have found solace in having more time with their family or take up other hobbies. But this, has not stopped the increase in reports and even some visible mental health struggles, including alcohol/drug abuse problems and of course domestic violence, where sadly and disturbingly so, incidents have increased!