Mental Health in the COVID-19 era


(Sydney Sims, Unsplash)

This article was written for The European Sting by our one of our passionate readers, Sheharyar Akhtar, a 4th year medical student from Sialkot Medical College, Sialkot, Punjab. Pakistan.. The opinions expressed within reflect only the writer’s views and not necessarily The European Sting’s position on the issue.

No one would ever say that someone with a broken arm or a broken leg is less than a whole person, but people say that or imply that all the time about people with mental illness – Ellen R Saks

Do you feel jittery all day from the inside out and have a constant feeling of doom with intrusive thoughts; that run through your mind like a merry go round. Dizziness, vertigo, the feeling as though you’re going to pass out, racing heart – which can race for hours if untreated. Irritability, sweating palms, insomnia, feeling as though a vice is around your neck slowly suffocating you, tremors and facial tics?

(Now that you’ve resolved the threat, you can return to a state of peace)

“Caring for your mental health” is at the forefront of many brands’ messaging right now in an attempt to sell us more products even in the midst of historic economic fallout. Although many of us intuitively know we won’t find mental peace via FoodPanda, it’s hard to articulate what “mental health” truly is.

Let’s talk about what mental health is not: 

Mental health is not simply the absence of mental illness. Many people without symptoms and diagnosis  aren’t exactly mentally healthy; their lives are soaked in stress, rumination, obsession or self-loathing. 

However, a person may have a diagnosis of anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, or any other mental disorder – and still be mentally healthy. Infact, many people with mental illness diagnoses are frequently more mentally healthy than those without because they’re forced to maintain a mental health routine to manage their symptoms.

But mental health is also not the same as happiness – for example, a person experiencing a maniac episode or delusion could feel high level of happiness, but their sense of reality endanger themselves or others. However, it’s fair to say most people feel happier when they’re mentally healthy than when they’re not.

The World Health Organisation defines mental health as: ” a state of well-being in which an individual realizes their own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.”

…I see some problems with that definition. As most grandiose accomplishments can sometimes have the most banal of origins.

Is someone not mentally healthy; if they’re disabled, unemployed or otherwise unable to “work productively” and “make a contribution”? What if they just don’t want to? Do we truly believe the mental health is a reflection of our ability to produce?

The World Psychiatric Association seemed to have the same concerns I listed. In 2015, they challenged the WHO definition in their article “Towards a new Definition of Mental Health”, primarily citing the observation that WHO definition is centered on the values of Western countries. Most places in the world don’t view “productivity” as the be all and end all, much less the single determinant for mental health. To sum up their lengthy definition: mental health is the ability to feel your feelings, good and bad, and to respond to those feelings via healthy coping methods and expression.

The problem with being in a bubble is that it only takes one prick to burst it.

Although a Himalayan salt bath with a Lush face-mask doesn’t automatically make everything better, here is something you can do to look after yourself: Let those closest to you know you’re having a rough time, and tell them what they can do to help you. More importantly – Accept their Help

Moral maze: It’s far “healthier” to look your life in the eye and decide things for yourself – to risk being battered at the hand of the universe, coming out a little weathered on the other side – than sit idly inside and accept what’s delivered to your doorstep with a smile that barely hides that perpetual sinking feeling.

Ride it like a wave.

Think of your mental health as the boat you ride on the seas of life. You aren’t always guaranteed smooth sailing, but a good boat will carry you through the waves, so you don’t drown. Depicted in a very cozy way: a mentaly sane must have a huge heart and a distended aorta through which pumps a vast lake of compassion and human kindness.

About the author

Sheharyar Akhtar is a 4th year medical student from Sialkot Medical College, Sialkot, Punjab. Pakistan.

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  1. Nice Work Sheharyar! This is a good piece of Edutainment.🙌🔥✔ Take care of your mental health too in Pakistan. Don’t medical school pressure swallow you.

  2. I would recommend building you own boat and taking swimming lessons!

    You’re welcome to visit my website.

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