Volume 22, Issue 4, December 2020

Editoral in Hungarian

Judit Lazáry

The first lockdown due to COVID-19 pandemic from the psychiatric patients’ perspective: an ambulatory care client experience survey

László Pogány, András Áron Horváth, Adrienn Slezák, Éva Rózsavölgyi
and Judit Lazáry


Introduction: The coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) required the declaration of a state of emergency in Hungary from 11 March 2020 to 18 June 2020. These governmental actions led to changes in everyday life, implementation of new rules, and reduced access to healthcare. Hospital beds were reserved for emergency use, face-to-face ambulatory care was mainly replaced by telemedicine. In our study we assessed opinion of the patients in two outpatient psychiatric care units in Budapest regarding the state of emergency. Methods: We enrolled 438 patients in the survey (305 women and 133 men, mean age: 51.9±16.2 years). The patients completed a short questionnaire on a voluntary and anonymous basis following verbal informed consent. The questionnaire was comprised of 10 items and a 12-item „Problem Evaluation Scale” (fear, isolation and healthcare subscales). The comparison of groups was done using general linear models (GLM), pairwise comparison was performed using Tukey’s test for post hoc analysis. The data set was analyzed with SPSS software, version 24.0. Results: Up to 34% of enrolled patients believed that their condition worsened during the state of emergency, but 12% of these patients thought that this worsening was not related to the state of emergency. Twice as many patients (12.8%) were concerned about their financial situation than about their health status (6.1%). Loneliness and the implementation of specific regulations didn’t cause relevant distress in almost half of the patients, isolation was the most frequently (55.2%) reported difficulty. The worsening of health status was reported more frequently (p=0.001) by the patients younger than 50 years, the sensation of fear was stronger (p=0.045), and they reported more serious adaptation difficulties (p=0.003) than subjects older than 50 years. Isolation caused significantly (p=0.003) more serious distress among women. The abundance of pandemic-related information caused more distress in the case of patients treated for anxiety than participants treated for psychotic disorders (p=0.024). Patients suffering from affective disorders perceived more pronounced feelings of vulnerability compared to patients treated for psychotic disorders (p=0.004). Conclusion: Approximately half of the enrolled psychiatric patients was able to adapt to this situation without major difficulties, the other half of this sample was more or less distressed by these circumstances. Unfortunately, depletion of emotional, psychological, social and material resources can be expected during the next stage of the pandemic. As a result, we can expect further worsening of the above presented aspects.

Keywords: coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, pandemic, quarantine, fi rst lock down


The COVID-2019 pandemic has presented a new situation affecting not only the somatic but the mental health of people worldwide and exposing the world including healthcare professionals to a challenge never experienced before. Therefore its effects on mental health, although can be estimated, but cannot be predicted, thus we are only halfways prepared for understanding as well as screening, preventing and treating the pandemic-related mental health problems. For this reason, the Mental Health Sector of the Scientific Researches Institute of the Pan-Hellenic Medical Association prepared a large, international online, general population study with participation from over 42 countries, assessing various aspects of general mental function, needs and behaviors that could occur during the COVID-19 outbreak, as a result of either the outbreak itself or the social measures adopted in order to control it. While the study is ongoing, here we present the first descriptive results from the Hungarian study sample including 738 adult participants collected during the first wave of COVID-19-associated lockdown, focusing on differences in the effect of COVID-19 on psychological and lifestyle measures, as well as attitudes towards the pandemic between mentally healthy participants and people with mental disorders.

Keywords: COVID-19, pandemic, mental health, lifestyle, well-being, attitudes


The COVID-19 epidemic has had an extraordinary impact on mental health. In addition to the direct effect of the virus, we must take into account increasing disease anxiety due to the risk of infection, insecurity, confusing media activity, social isolation due to quarantine, socioeconomic impact, and the reduced capacity of the health-care system. In this paper, we present our experiences with the patient information telephone service operated by the psychotherapy department of the Nyírő Gyula National Institute of Psychiatry and Addiction (Nyírő-OPAI). Clinical psychologists and psychotherapists received the calls. The vast majority of the 264 phone calls registered during the two months of the pandemic (62%) were initiated by treated patients (availability of a doctor, questions related to the operation of the health-care system, prescribing medications). Still, we could also help patients and their families in potentially dangerous situations (21%): suicidal intentions, alcohol- and drug-related crises, severe neurocognitive disorders (dementias) with acute behavioural and psychological symptoms. In all cases, the telephone consultation led to the successful resolution of the crisis (low-threshold psychological intervention, counselling, assistance in admission to the institution). A relatively small number of calls (7%) were related to more complex psychotherapeutic needs. In summary, our experience shows that in extreme social situations, direct telephone assistance is suitable for supporting registered patients in the mental health system. This type of service also provides an opportunity to address acute crises and cases requiring more complex psychotherapeutic interventions.

Keywords: COVID-19, crisis intervention, telephone information service


The COVID-19 pandemic causes psychological trauma in the whole society, thus investigation of the epidemiology of psychiatric symptoms is an outstanding research field during this period. Fear of infection, exposure to updated data on death figures, social isolation, adaptation to new restricting rules, existential crisis, reduction of health care availability poses dangers for mental health. Currently published papers focus on the acute effect of first wave of COVID-19 pandemic, however, further studies on long-term consequences can make this picture more complex and sophisticated. In this review a summary is provided on the most important results concerning frequency of psychiatric symptoms during the first lockdown of COVID-19. In light of the results it can be stated that psychiatric patients showed more common and more intensive symptoms, the number of relapses is increased and the adherence is reduced. Notably, more than the half of the general population produced measurable psychiatric symptoms. Furthermore, a worrying portion of frontline healthcare workers started manifesting mental symptoms. The overall picture suggests that the mental health state shows a global decline on the level of the general society which highlights the urgent need for targeted and complex mental support programs.

Keywords: coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, fi rst lock down, traumatisation, quarantine