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Psychiatrists Struggle To Cope With Ceausescu’s Legacy With AM-Romania, Bjt

January 3, 1990

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) _ Psychiatrists are struggling to cope with the madness of Nicolae Ceausescu’s Romania, with the fear and anguish of repression and the emotional trauma of revolution.

Doctors said Wednesday that emergency patients at Bucharest’s largest mental hospital include hundreds broken by the stress of the fighting and upheaval.

The wards already were filled with many others whose tortured minds, the doctors said, must be blamed on the Communist dictator executed Dec. 25.

Patients at the Dr. G. Marinescu Hospital have also included captured members of the Securitate, Ceausescu’s dreaded special police who enforced his 24 years of increasingly repressive rule.

The emergency cases for the present are mostly people who have snapped under the stress of the revolution, the fighting and the sleepless nights.

″The majority are paranoid, psychotic. They believe they are being followed. They are suffering from great anxiety and have an irrational fear of death,″ said Professor Vasile Predescu, a leading psychiatrists.

″They have periods of six, eight, 12 hours of intense restlessness based on anxiety,″ Predescu said.

There have been 200 such emergency cases of severe stress in the last 10 days, a number he said was roughly equivalent to the number of people admitted with such a condition in a year.

″The vast majority of these patients had no personal or family history of mental illness,″ Predescu said. All of these patients are severely disturbed and not people in need only of some counseling to help them through troubled times. However, the doctors said the symptoms subside to some degree after 24 to 48 hours of treatment with strong sedatives.

″The vast number accuse Ceausescu,″ he added. ″Some still do not believe he is dead.″

″But we do,″ added Dr. Marie-Jean Georgescu in a voice filled with contempt.

Ceausescu’s repression - reaching far into such private spheres as how many children a family could have, where they lived, or what they might have to eat or read - caused many of the psychiatric disorders treated in this 14-ward hospital that admits 30,000 patients a year, said Dr. Lucian Alexandrescu.

″There have also been many suicides around Bucharest because their homes were destroyed,″ said Predescu, referring to Ceausescu’s policy of knocking down thousands of old Bucharest homes to make way for his grandiose Palace of the People in the center, or clearing whole villages in the name of modernity.

″Many people became severely despondent just thinking that their house or their village was about to be destroyed,″ he added.

Alexandrescu said other patients could not cope with the pressures and stress of daily life under Ceausescu’s regime.

″Women had to work. They had to have children whether they wanted them or not. It was difficult just finding food, feeding the family,″ he said.

″They suffered from the impossibility of living normally,″ Ms. Georgescu added.

Predescu said the patients at the hospital briefly included three Securitate agents brought there by the army under heavy guard.

″The terrorists exhibited a clinical picture of rapid changes from minute to minute. They were in an intense delusional state. They would say everyone in their family had been shot. Then they would not know where they were. Then they would deny their family had been shot,″ he said.

Alexandrescu said it was unclear if these Securitate men referred to the widespread rumors that many of them were orphans, or were taken from their parents and trained from childhood to serve Ceausescu.

″When they say they have no families, it could be true, or they could be protecting their families,″ he said. They were later moved to the hospital at Jilava prison, which used to house Ceausescu’s political prisoners.

Alexandrescu said that in a couple of weeks the hospital will begin to see the leading edge of a wave of people left severely despondent by grief over the victims of the revolution. He said such depression takes time to build.

″Now is the calm after the storm,″ he said. ″Then there will be a wave of depressive reactions.″

″We have the experience of the earthquake of 1977 when depressive reactions continued for up to six months after the quake,″ he said, referring to the devastating quakes that killed 1,900 Bucharest residents.

Dr. Constantin Dincea said many people grieving over lost loved ones find comfort and solidarity with others suffering from a similar loss.

″One of my colleagues lost her husband. He was shot. Her grief dissolved at the funeral when she met all the other people who at the same moment were burying their dead,″ he said. ″They gave each other mutual support. It was extraordinary, compassionate human solidarity.″

Dincea, who specializes in child psychology, said the children have fared better in the emotional upheaval of the revolution.

″Children seem better equipped emotionally to deal with it,″ he said. ″They do not have a sense of the correct meaning of death.″

The four doctors all believed that the end of Ceausescu will mean fewer patients, a gradual return to mental health for a nation caught in the web of madness.

They also said the end of the Ceausescu years will also enable Romania’s 9,100 psychiatrists to be better prepared to deal with mental illness.

Ceausescu interfered, they said, with the free exchange of information with psychiatrists abroad. He refused to allow foreigners to take part in conferences in Romania or to permit Romanian psychiatrists to travel abroad.

Alexandrescu complained that Romania’s reputation in the field, as in many others, suffered in recent years because Ceausescu made it so difficult even for them to publish papers abroad.

″It was awful, awful,″ he said. ″You could get sick just trying to do this. A successful applicant would make a good candidate for hospitalization here.″

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