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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Expert: Mental illness up in Puerto Rico due to pandemic

Marta Rivera Plaza, chief operating officer of the San Juan Capestrano System

By The Star Staff

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused an increase in mental illness in Puerto Rico, said Marta Rivera Plaza, the chief operating officer of the San Juan Capestrano System.

“Last year the COVID-19 pandemic caused the number of beds to double for management of alcohol and drug addiction in adults,” she said. “We have identified five signs that have been present in clinical cases where the intervention of mental health professionals has been necessary.”

Speaking at a United Retailers Association event over the weekend, Rivera Plaza warned of the need to identify signs that affect mental health following the natural disasters brought by Hurricane Maria, the 2020 earthquake and now the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the first of these symptoms, patients present “anxiety” with the constant change of emotions where irritability and moodiness appear. The second unmistakable sign is “depression” accompanied by lack of energy, difficulty sleeping and problems concentrating.

“All this has doubled admissions for severe depression linked to mostly to the loss of loved ones, victims of the pandemic, and a second reason is divorce,” Rivera Plaza said.

The number of teenagers with mental health problems has also been increased by the pandemic, she said, as a result of isolation and a lack of socialization.

She also said people need to watch out when their loved ones neglect their personal health, show signs of hopelessness or show signs that they may commit suicide.

“Suicidal ideation can be identified when a person isolates himself by refusing to share his emotional pain, often acting in a way that puts not only themselves at risk but also other people,” Rivera Plaza said. “In these cases it is necessary to seek professional help.”

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