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Dr. Bajraktarov: Stay sane, stay positive, stay creative in these low-contact times

Staying positive and creative and sticking to a routine can be of tremendous help in low-contact conditions. If difficulties persist, experts are here to provide additional advice and support, says dr. Stojan Bajraktarov

Skopje, 25 March 2020 (MIA) – Let’s limit our social media access – which can make us feel more anxious. Let’s maintain regular contact with our loved ones and try to find solutions to some of the problems together. Prevent anxiety and panic attacks and stay sane. Staying positive and creative and sticking to a routine can be of tremendous help in low-contact conditions. If difficulties persist, experts are here to provide additional advice and support, says dr. Stojan Bajraktarov, head of the University Clinic of Psychiatry in an interview with MIA.

Regarding the psychological support helpline offered by the psychiatry clinic for adults in self-isolation, parents of pre-school and school-aged children, hospitalized coronavirus patients, citizens of Debar and Centar Zhupa municipality, Bajraktarov points out that the citizens need the appropriate information for their basic needs and their experiences. They also need support for increased anxiety, fear, concern, insecurity, sleep problems and behavior issues.

Pre-school and school-aged children’s parents can get psychological support if they dial 072 912 676, self-isolating adults can call 072 919 009, and the citizens of Debar and Centar Zhupa can call 070 241 807.

“The citizens are accepting the psychological support, sharing their experiences openly. They take the advice they’re given, and are pleased to have access to such a service in times of limited personal contact,” dr. Bajraktarov adds.

How does the psychological support helpline service work for the citizens and vulnerable groups of patients? How many calls have gone through so far? What are the frequently asked questions?

The University Clinic of Psychiatry offers psychological support for adults in self-isolation, parents of pre-school and school-aged children, hospitalized coronavirus patients, citizens of Debar and Centar Zhupa municipality. The service is offered through the phone by a team of psychiatrists and psychologists in different time slots. The citizens need the appropriate information for their basic needs and their experiences. They also need support for increased anxiety, fear, concern, insecurity, sleep problems and behavior issues.

How many doctors of the Clinic of Psychiatry are involved in this kind of communication with the citizens? What are their experiences since the beginning of this project?

As I said, a team of psychiatrists and psychologists are involved in this service, available to provide support. The experiences are positive and encouraging from both sides. The citizens accept the psychological support and they share openly, accepting advice and showing gratitude to have access to such a service in times like these.

What category of citizens have the need for psychological help? What kind of psychological help do the citizens ask of the doctors at the Clinic of Psychiatry?

We offer this service to the vulnerable category of citizens, including parents of young children, self-isolating adults, hospitalized persons and citizens of Debar and Centar Zhupa. The majority of the citizens need additional information and support for anxiety, fear, concern, feeling unsafe, sleep problems and other suchlike anxiety manifestations.

What are the pre-school and school-aged children’s parents’ dilemmas? What advice are they given? How do they get through this easier?

Parents worry about the increase in anxiety in their children, as well as behavior problems. Children can start crying more, they can become irritable, withdrawn, and insecure, they can develop eating disorders and sleep disorders as well. The parents need advice on how to better approach their children. The experts have a different approach for each family, which is usually based on psychoeducation, appropriate informing about the situation, introducing positive and creative activities in the household in order to alleviate some of the stress in the parent and child, maintain structure throughout the day and plan activities.

How many adults in self-isolation have asked for psychological support? Can you tell us what the directions from the experts will be if the self-isolation gets extended over the next couple of weeks?

The helpline is available to any self-isolating adult who needs it. Our team approaches each person individually. Recommendations for citizens include appropriate organization towards the access to basic needs, such as food, medicine and hygiene products, as well as to follow information from relevant sources, keep in touch with their loved ones through the phone or internet, share their thoughts and feelings with people they trust, set up a routine of activities depending on possibilities, and to try to stay positive. Another well recommended method is to get more educated in basic relaxation exercises.

Do the citizens of Debar and Centar Zhupa call? What are their FAQs and dilemmas?

There is a special support line for citizens of these municipalities. They seek support for anxiety, health concerns for themselves and loved ones, as well as to verify information they’ve been receiving, and the access to basic necessities during limited personal contact. The experts are here to offer relevant information, help in realizing available resources and capacities they have, as well as to offer alternative perspectives and possibilities.

You’ve announced that MojTermin (MyAppointment) patients can have their appointments over the phone, or via video chat. How many video calls have been realized so far? What kind of questions are asked?

MojTermin appointments have continued without interruption. The Clinic of Psychiatry informs the patients of the possible ways to have their therapy appointments, through using tele-psychiatry, through using Viber or WhatsApp. Alongside this, we ask the patients to call for a non-scheduled appointment only if it’s an emergency. This way we reduce the influx of patients, we reduce crowds in ERs and prevent the spread of the disease. This appeal is of special significance for patients over the age of 65, who are the most vulnerable category if they are to catch the coronavirus. The patients who need chronic medications can talk to their primary care doctors, according to the WHO and Ministry of Health recommendations.

Have hospitalized patients who have contracted COVID-19 called for help yet? What are the directions for them? What’s your general message to the public for getting over this situation, which affects the citizens’ mental health negatively?

We contact the hospitalized persons in collaboration with the University Clinic for Infectious Diseases and Febrile Conditions. It is of special importance for this group of citizens that they’re being taken care of by experts who are putting in their best efforts and time in patient care. The other institutions and services are also here to offer their protection and help to the max. In such times, it’s important to follow and share information by relevant sources, limit our social media access because it can exacerbate anxiety, trying to find solutions for some problems together, prevent anxiety and panic attacks and stay sane. Staying positive, keeping a routine and creativity in conditions of limited personal contact can be of tremendous help. If difficulties persist, the experts are here to offer additional advice and support.

Renata Pepeljugoska

Translator: Dragana Knežević

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