Mental Health in times of a pandemic: what can each individual do to lessen the burden?

mental health car

(Abigail Faith, Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Bezawit Kassahun, a 22 year old medical student from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. She is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. 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.

In January 2020 the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak of a new coronavirus disease, COVID-19, to be a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. As we all face this new reality. we not only need to take care of our physical self and take suggested public heath precautions, but also take care of our emotional self, as this can take an emotional toll on you and trigger stress. The stress can be due to heightened awareness, concern, anxiety, fear and a sense of loss or feeling like you don’t have control. A stressful situation doesn’t affect everyone equally, people who may respond more strongly to the stress of crisis include

  • older people and people with chronic diseases-because they are at a higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19
  • children and teens
  • people who are travelling, or are separated from friends and family members at home or abroad.
  • people who are helping with the response to COVID-19, like doctors, other health care providers and first responders.
  • people who have, mental health condition including problems with substance abuse.

Some helpful tips to prevent and deal with stress are the following

1.Seek accurate information from a legitimate source- such as the world health organization(WHO) or reliable national sources. This is key to avoid the panic misinformation causes. In addition, limit the amount of time you spend watching, reading or listening to news about COVID-19 to specific times once or twice a day. Focus on getting information that will help you take practical steps to protect yourself and your loved ones,

2.Take care of your self- This means focus on things you can control. Where possible maintain your daily routine including getting enough sleep. You can also walk, meditate, exercise and do things that you enjoy.

3.Maintain a positive Thinking-Try to focus on things that are positive in your life. Try to focus on stories of people who have recovered from the disease. Also try to find comfort in your spiritual/personal beliefs and practices.

4.Strengthen your social network- Connect with others through social media, video calling, texting or by joining a support group, as this is physical not social distancing.

4.Be Mindful-Pay attention to your thoughts, feelings and body sensations to help you understand why you are feeling anxious or stressed. Practice breathing techniques to help you manage the stress. If you are having trouble managing your stress or anxiety, talk to someone you trust, contact your healthcare provider.

The most important thing to remember is that Your fear is shared among millions of people around the world and that we are all in this together. So, let’s all try to be patient with our self and others and keep in mind that coping with stress will make us, people we care about and our community stronger.

About the author

Bezawit Kassahun is 22 years old. She was born and raised at Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. After high school, she went to Addis Ababa university, college of health science to study medicine. Currently she is a 4th year medical student and a vice director of SCOPE at EMSA-AA. She is very passionate about global health and the health care system. In the future, She wants to make a positive impact in the health care system of Ethiopia, Africa and the world as a whole.

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