Pandemic and quarantine: What can we do for our mental health?

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Mr. Elomar Rezende Moura, a first year medical student from Aracaju, Sergipe, Brazil at UNIT (Tiradentes University). The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.


It is not new that the concern with mental health has been a constant theme in debates around the world, however, this time, we have a new variable at stake: the coronavirus. In a linked headline on BCC News (March 25, 2020) it was discovered that from the quarantine established by India, there are at least 2.9 billion people living with some form of movement restriction or access to services. Thus, we have a huge amount of idle people at home, 24 hours a day. In addition, we are in the period when anxiety and depression disorders have been most evident in the population. And now, what can we do for our mental health?

Despite the increase in the number of cases and the growing fear of being infected by the SARS-Cov2, there are measures that need to be taken in favor of our quality of life and preservation of mental health.

The first point is that we must be aware of the actual current context of the pandemic. Health authorities around the world repeatedly disclose the necessary precautions to prevent the virus from spreading and it is obvious that all of these precautions must be followed, however, this pandemic is probably not the worst that the world must face. The spanish flu (“1918 flu pandemic”), for example, deeply scared the world between 1918 and 1920 and killed around 50 million people, all in a short period of 2 years. Currently, we have nothing similar to this, the pandemic started around December 2019 and by March 20, 2020 we have about 168,000 dead, according to Johns Hopkins University statistics.

Allied to that, we are in another socioeconomic context, with better and bigger networks of communication, technology and health. All this in favor of the fight against the coronavirus, an unthinkable and non-existent fact in the 20th century.

Timely mental health care needs to be developed urgently. Some methods used in the SARS outbreak could be helpful for the response to the 2019-nCoV outbreak. (XIANG, Y.T. et al. February 04, 2020).

Therefore, the second point is about using practices that stimulate psychological well-being, including reading (as a habit) the practice of yoga or mindfulness (as a way to calm the turbulent thoughts that are arising due to the current situation), also watching good movies, or TV series, learning a new language, developing a new hobby, cooking. There is no formula, it is necessary to test what works best for you. Finally, if those practices do not promote an improvement in your mental state, a professional psychological help service should be sought, for example: psychoanalysts, psychologists and psychiatrists.

It is evident that this pandemic is worrying and must be taken seriously, however, one day it will be just one among many other pandemics, so, at this moment, it is essential that each individual take care and preserve their mental health so that this moment of anguish and fear is as painless as possible.

References

BBC new’s team.  Coronavírus: um terço da população mundial está sob quarentena; veja 4 tipos de restrição. April 20, 2020. https://www.bbc.com/portuguese/internacional-52040808

Johns Hopkins University. Coronavirus resource center. April 20, 2020. https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html

XIANG, Y. T., YANG, Y., LI, W., ZHANG, L., ZHANG, Q., et al. Timely mental health care for the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak is urgently needed. The Lancet Psychiatry, 2020 [April 20]. https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanpsy/article/PIIS2215-0366%2820%2930046-8/fulltext

About the author

Elomar Rezende Moura is a first year medical student from Aracaju, Sergipe, Brazil at UNIT (Tiradentes University). His interests include the medical field focusing on mental health, psychology and psychiatry. In addition, he studies English and Spanish, and is interested in research and scientific dissemination. Finally, he finds pleasure in reading books that address topics such as history, philosophy, sociology and economics.

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