Psychologists say there is emerging evidence of long-term and in some ‘severe’ effects from time spent in MIQ, brought on by a lack of control, autonomy, and social contact.
While many returnees enjoy the two-week stay at the hotel, others say the cost of mental health catches them completely off guard.
Debbie described her stay at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in July as “trapped in a strange altered reality” where she had no idea how angry, distraught and “weird” she would feel.
“I really hit rock bottom. I sat and cried on the chain link fence. I just couldn’t move and felt like I couldn’t move, and this was only on day 2,” he said.
“If it had been like staying in a hotel, I don’t go to a hotel with the expectation of support. I just stay there, do what I have to do, and leave. I thought it was going to be that simple, but it wasn’t .. It’s really a strange reality trying to fit into a set of rules, but you don’t know what the rules are. “
For Carrie-Ann it was a feeling of being lost and unmotivated, and she was still a little nervous a month later.
Last month, she and her three-year-old daughter spent two weeks at the Grand Mercure in Auckland, following a trip to the UK to see her sick father.
Carrie-Ann was hoping it would be a relaxing few days, but the rest of the country crashed and began to panic about contracting the virus after learning of a possible transmission at the Crowne Plaza.
He said he struggled without opening the windows and was afraid to turn on the air conditioning.
“I broke down a few times there. I can see how anyone’s mental health would really have problems, especially people with children. You’re stuck there trying to see to the well-being of your children while trying to maintain your own sanity,” she said.
“You try to stay positive, but then I had no motivation. And I’m usually quite active; I like to go out with my kids, do things. Suddenly, I’m stuck in this room and I just had no motivation to do anything with my daughter. I felt lost. “
MIQ officials say there is a mental health doctor available at each hotel and nurses available 24/7 if returnees are concerned about their own mental well-being or someone in their whanau.
The welcome pack provided to returnees includes free helplines, websites and services, while nurses should ask about people’s mental health and well-being as part of daily health checks.
But RNZ has spoken with several recent returnees who said that did not happen at their hotels.
Debbie said the staff seemed too overworked and too busy to monitor their mental health.
“Every day they would take my temperature, look for symptoms of Covid-19 and then they would leave,” he said.
Another returnee who left Four Points by Sheraton today and asked not to be identified: “They haven’t asked me how I’m coping, just if we have symptoms … I think there is supposed to be a wellness team … I haven’t had not once heard from them. “
Clinical psychologist Jacqui Maguire cautioned that the impacts of MIQ on the mental health of some people “should not be underestimated.”
She said a study by Kings College in London found significant psychological impacts among people who had spent more than 10 days in hotel quarantine.
In some cases, the effects were long-lasting.
“It can increase stress and depression, it can make insomnia worse or lead to insomnia. It can make people irritable, have difficulty concentrating, or feel detached from others and some people, especially those who may have an underlying basis. from mental illness or previous trauma in your life, brings symptoms similar to post-traumatic stress, “he said.
“We shouldn’t take it lightly.”
Psychologist Dr. Jane Millichamp said MIQ can seem monotonous and boring, but that it is stressful for humans to drive in a “limbo state” with nothing to do and no social contact.
He said it was important for hotel staff to reach out and help people stay socially connected.
“When people get a little depressed and when they feel really depressed or very anxious, people don’t always have the initiative to communicate. So, get in touch with someone or pick up the phone and call one of the advice lines , it may not be so. happen, “he said.
“I think it would be very good if psychologists, mental health workers or nurses could initiate contact, especially with adolescents and young people.”
Meanwhile, increasing pressure on the MIQ system is also giving returnees another reason to feel less than good.
When the lobby group Grounded Kiwis surveyed 902 people who tried to get a spot at MIQ last week, those who were successful reported that they were aware of the thousands of people who had been lost.
Spokesperson Alexandra Birt said it was sad to hear, given that all New Zealanders should have the right to return home.
“There were people who said things like they were relieved, and then they immediately felt so guilty. And people who said they didn’t deserve a voucher.”
Jacqui Maguire wants the government to consider the mental health of New Zealanders when looking at future options for MIQ.
“I think as a country, as our vaccination rates increase, we really need to consider where your 14 days at MIQ is the best option.”
“We know this will have a psychological impact on people. Is MIQ at home, for example, a better option that provides both physical and psychological health benefits?”
In the meantime, he suggested that returnees enter MIQ with realistic expectations.
“If I am entering MIQ and I know that it is a pressure cooker situation, you know that I am confined to a certain space, I have lost my ability to have autonomy in control of many things, my sense of freedom is diminished. They are important triggers from poor well-being. So if I know before I come in, have I taken the time to solve the problem of how I am going to drive during that period of time? “she said.
Jane Millichamp can benefit from creating a daily routine with online activities like catching up with friends and family, yoga, or physical exercise.
“Research has shown that allowing yourself to relax and be in the moment is a great way to increase well-being and reduce anxiety. So I generally recommend trying a free meditation app or mindfulness exercise online.” .
Where to get help:
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