For weeks, Roberta Brivio’s phone rings several times an hour. “I can’t even find time to eat,” he said from his office in Melegnano, south of Milan. Brivio, a 74-year-old psychologist living in Lombardy, is president of the Italian Society’s branch of Italian Emergency Psychology. Italy has the highest mortality rate in the world from COVID-19, with more than 16,000 corona virus-related deaths so far; more than half of the deaths occurred in northern Lombardy. In early March, after the Italian COVID-19 outbreak raged near his home, Brivio and four of his colleagues set up a free mental health hotline for residents of Lombardy who were struggling to cope with death and isolation.
He began to receive calls immediately. “Many people call us with anxiety, loneliness or fear,” he said. “We saw a lot of panic attacks; sometimes that even happens during phone calls. “In the past month, the hotline has helped more than 750 people who are struggling,” said Brivio. He now coordinates a network of 200 professional psychologists who have reached out to volunteers. “I have to learn to use Zoom,” joked Brivio.
Thousands of other Italians also found new ways to support one another as the country entered its fifth locking week. Not long ago, Italy was divided, with rampant anti-immigration sentiments and populist politicians occupying polls. But now it seems that the pandemic has united the Italians. “There is always someone looking for enemies, but we see so much solidarity,” Brivio said. “Let’s hope it doesn’t end.”
Anna Paladino, a 48-year-old psychologist and volunteer in Milan, said she joined the hotline because she immediately realized “something big” could happen to the mental health of the population; some of his clients live in the “red zone,” the initial outbreak area south of Milan, which is also near his home. “In some emergencies, such as a plane crash, you think it could be you – but you were not there,” he said. This pandemic is different: “When people talk about what it’s like to be infected or lose a relative, it can is it right happened to me too. “
Because of the horrific stories they hear, emotional victims can be very hard for volunteers, Brivio said. “Today a woman called after she tried to commit suicide,” he said. “One day a woman named said, ‘My husband died today and my children are aged 3 and 5. How do I tell them?'” He asked volunteers to attend an online session to recover and practice to handle the most complex cases .
But not all stories are torturous. “Sometimes we think, ‘OK, we did it!’,” Paladiino said. “Person This person feels calmer now. They will be able to sleep tonight ‘. “
Other initiatives have sprung up all over Italy, because people offer their time and skills. After their restaurant closed, several chefs preparing food for homeless people. Theater actor is live stream fairy tales for children stuck at home after school closed a month ago. In the cities of Southern Italy, its inhabitants leave food on the streets for those who need it most.
Solidarity basket with a note that read ‘Who can lay, who cannot take’ on one of the deserted streets in the historic center of Naples, southern Italy, on March 30, 2020.
Cesare Abbate – EPA-EFE / Shutterstock
Stefano Marrone, a volunteer in Milan, said many Italians were touched by the initial shock of the crisis and rising mortality. “I think we will remember the shock we felt in the first week of March for a very long time: people who went to the supermarket in a panic, the most vulnerable difficulties,” he said. “But we will also remember the power of ordinary people to react,” he added.
Marrone, in his twenties, was part of the “Voluntary Emergency Brigade,” an initiative of a grassroots organization in partnership with the city of Milan and Italian emergency NGOs. This initiative coordinates young people carrying food and medicines for infected people in quarantine, elderly people and other vulnerable people in Milan, one of the hardest hit cities in Italy.
Maria Maletta, an elderly woman who remained alone in her apartment on the ninth floor in the working class district of Quarto Cagnino, called the initiative “miraculous.” Nearly 78 years and with several preexisting conditions, he is among those most at risk of complications if he is exposed to COVID-19, and he is strongly advised to remain at home.
But when his feet are inflamed, he needs medicine and no one can take him. “I am alone. I have no one,” he said. “I always go alone, but now things have changed.” For weeks, he said, he remained “walled”.
Thanks to this initiative, two young men – Lorenzo and Edoardo Zerbini – went to the local pharmacy for him on Saturday, wearing a mask, an identity badge, and keeping a distance. When the lockdown starts in the Lombardy region on March 8, Lorenzo will submit his master’s dissertation. His brother Edoardo works for a car dealer and is forced to use all the paid leave before being criticized. With so much free time, they decide to devote themselves to the most vulnerable.
A group of migrants, who work together as volunteers with the Cooperative Poor, bring food bags and medicines to parents’ homes, or who cannot shop, because of government restrictions or because of fear of corona virus infection.
Roberta Basile – CONTROL / LightRocket / Getty Images
Many of the 300 project volunteers “are students or young people who have lost their jobs,” said Marco La Trecchina, the project coordinator for Emergency NGOs, who train volunteers and provide logistical oversight. This initiative has been so well received that hundreds of others have asked to join the “brigade,” and around 300 are put on a waiting list, to avoid too many people leaving at once. The next 50 volunteers stayed at home, sewing masks for fellow volunteers.
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Other Italians find time to help alongside their work. When the pandemic began killing hundreds of people in Brescia, Lombardy, the Paolo and Gabriele Carrera brothers found themselves at the heart of the network that donated tablet computers to hospitals – providing one last video call to sick families.
All hospital visits have been banned after the crisis, so when an infected loved one is brought to the hospital, relatives cannot say the last goodbye when a patient dies. Surprised by this situation, a local hospital asked for the help of a local newspaper editor; instead, he asked the Carrera brothers for help, because they worked in a small local business association.
“What’s terrible is inhuman death,” said Paolo Carrera. “It’s very frustrating for families not to be able to make any contact [before they die]. The nurse told us that they delivered the last message to the family. Some people say, ‘Remember me, I’m going to die,’ or ‘Tell my sons and daughters I love them’. “
The Carrera brothers know what it’s like to lose a loved one without being able to say goodbye. Their old uncle died of the corona virus in mid-March, but they were unable to talk to him. After being contacted, the Carrera brothers used their professional link to coordinate the campaign. Local newspapers ask for donations and the taxi driver’s cooperative voluntarily collects tablets and takes them to the hospital.
“So far, we have sent about one hundred tablets to the local hospital and assisted with residential facilities,” said Gabriele Carrera, adding that all but two or three tablets donated were brand new. “Donations come not only from Brescia, but from Milan, Rome and even from abroad. […] We did not know there were so many people who wanted to help. “They have received touching responses from families who are able to talk with their loved ones for the last time. Paolo said the most important work was to cure patients, giving them real opportunities. “But in these confusing times, we do everything we can to give a little meaning to people’s lives.”
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