Mental health and social isolation: how do have an active participation in self-care?

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Bruna Raupp Santiago, Medical student of the fifth period at Universidade do Estado do Amazonas (UEA). 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.


According to the definition proposed by World Health Organization (WHO) about health, this is understood as a complete physical, mental and social welfare1. When elucidate the topic about mental health, it’s important notice that the meaning is more than a simple absence of mental disorders. Note in this the influence of different factors, like social, environmental and socioeconomic. Besides that, like Marx exposed: “The individual is the social being.”2, so the social isolation, limiting the physical living in the normal routine of people, is able to impact in a deleterious way in individual’s health.

In the present worldwide reality of COVID-19 pandemic is notorious the importance of social isolation like a way to prevent the dissemination of this disease. In this scenario, inferred an increase of symptoms of anxiety, depression, anguish and the projection of occurrence of post-traumatic stress disorder, based on studies performed in previous epidemics3-4. So the influence of pandemic, associated with social isolation and uncertainty perspective created by that, generate prejudice in short and long term. This scenario become both the COVID-19 and the mental health: public health problems.

The health professionals also experience stressors that contribute negatively for the mental health of these, like exposed in a transversal Chinese study witch had focus in depression, anxiety and anguish allow this conclusion: “50.4%, 44.6%, 34.0%, and 71.5% of all participants reported symptoms of depression, anxiety, insomnia, and distress, respectively”5. This state of alert extends to the population in general, through of extensive news dissemination about the local, federal and global scenarios of COVID-19 pandemic as the high dissemination of fake news6, what contributed for development of anxiety symptoms7.

Therefore, it’s extreme necessary the care with mental health, in order to minimize as much as possible the negative impacts of social isolation on individual health. So each one can be an active subject in the care of own mental health as well as those with whom they live or even with who keep contact at a distance. In additionally, an important aid tool is internet, because became possible keep contact and interaction with relatives and friends7 who the social isolation limit like security measures. Taking care of mental health with individualised service with psychologists also be an alternative, as well as participate of support groups that hold online meetings, on what it’s possible te interaction among the participants, thus generating a partnership scenery, besides being an important point in favour of development of social interaction7 in times of home isolation. Otherwise, the establishment of a routine contributes for a reduce of anxiety feelings, because when stipulate schedules to do little everyday tasks that can be done in the midst of social isolation, like cook, study, watch movies and series, read books, meditate, do physical exercises…8 Like this it’s possible become the social isolation a way in favor of learning new individual skills and development of other ones and consequently taking care of health in general.

References

1Organização Pan-Americana da Saúde/Organização Mundial de Saúde. Saúde mental depende de bem-estar físico e social, diz OMS em dia mundial [Internet]. [place unknown]; 2016 [cited 2020 Apr 24]. Available from: https://nacoesunidas.org/saude-mental-depende-de-bem-estar-fisico-e-social-diz-oms-em-dia-mundial/amp/.

2Marx K. Manuscritos econômico-filosóficos. São Paulo: Boitempo; 2010.

3Chua SE, Cheung V, McAlonan GM, Cheung C, Wong JW, Cheung EP, et al. Stress and Psychological Impact on SARS Patients during the Outbreak. The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry. 2004;49(6): 385-390. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1177/070674370404900607 [Accessed 24th April 2020].

4 Lee AM, Wong JG, McAlonan GM, Cheung V, Cheung C, Sham PC, et al. Stress and Psychological Distress among SARS Survivors 1 Year after the Outbreak. The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry. 2007;52(4): 233-240. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1177/070674370705200405 [Accessed 24th April 2020].

5Lai J, Ma S, Wang Y, Cai Z, Hu J, Wei N, et al. Factors Associated With Mental Health Outcomes Among Health Care Workers Exposed to Coronavirus Disease 2019. JAMA Network Open. 2020;3(3): e203976. Available from: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.3976 [Accessed 24th April 2020].

6Pierro B. Epidemia de fake news [Internet]. São Paulo: FAPESP; 2020 [cited 2020 Apr 24]. Available from: https://revistapesquisa.fapesp.br/2020/04/07/epidemia-de-fake-news/.

7Ornell F, Schuch JB, Sordi AO, Kessler FHP. “Pandemic fear” and COVID-19: mental health burden and strategies. Brazilian Journal of Psychiatry. 2020;0(0): 000-000. Available from: DOI: 10.1590 / 1516-4446-2020-0008 [Accessed 24th April 2020].

8Caleffi L, Garcia LMC. Isolamento social: criar uma rotina pode preservar a saúde mental e física [Internet]. Porto Alegre; 2020 [cited 2020 Apr 24]. Available from: https://www.hospitalmoinhos.org.br/saude-e-voce/isolamento-social-criar-uma-rotina-pode-preservar-saude-mental-e-fisica/.

About the author

Bruna Raupp Santiago, Medical student of the fifth period at Universidade do Estado do Amazonas (UEA). Affiliated to IFMSA Brazil since 2018, she was local president during 2018/19 term. Currently work as national program coordinator in axis of mental health and member of the crises committee in the area of social media during the crises regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. Member of the extension project Colorir UEA – Meses Coloridos, covering thematics of population awareness through of colorful calendar of health, having been coordinator of the action turned to Yellow September and meditation for health area’s academics in September, 2019.

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