Mental health In Times of a Pandemic: What can each Individual to lessen the Burden.

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Claire Molen, a 5th year medical student from Nigeria. 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.


On the 11th of March, the World Health Organization declared the Coronavirus disease outbreak of 2019(COVID-19) a pandemic. A pandemic refers to widespread outbreak of a disease affecting the entire world. Hence, in recent times the word “pandemic” has become seemingly synonymous with COVID-19. It is therefore no News that this disease has been ravaging the world;at the time of writing this there are two million cases worldwide,twenty-seven percent of which have recovered with mortality of about six percent.

As with other pandemics, measures have been put in place by Governments and Health authorities to forestall the spread of the infection. Social distancing has in no small way disrupted daily routines and has plunged many individuals and businesses Into a socioeconomic and health care crisis.

Most times we tend to get sidetracked by the implication of COVID-19 on physical and economic well-being forgetting mental health which is equally as important. How is mental health affected? I’d like to look at the effects from three standpoints: the Individual, family and the society.

The reason for stress and anxiety for an individual in these perilous times is not far-fetched. Anxiety stemming from loss of job security, retrenchment, debt,and lesser physical interaction/reassurance from trusted friends and family which form part of their support system coupled with gross misinformation that engenders panic are all triggering factors(stressors) especially for persons with preexisting mental disorders, chronic medical conditions, emergency healthcare workers to name a few.

Looking at the effects on the family which include anxiety, overwhelming grief from loss of a loved one to the disease and lack of closure with crumbling family emotional support systems all inevitably affect family members.

The role of the individual in lessening the burden on mental health extends even to the family and community.  Few but important ways to care for mental health  include:

  • Avoid sharing speculations that cause undue fear and panic. Only share information verified by health authorities.
  • Maintain regular communication with friends and family which form part of your support system. Talk to others, err your concerns; don’t leave everything bottled up- social distancing not social ostracization.
  • Have a routine each day, as difficult as it may seem do not lie down in bed all day. Divert your mind to activities which you enjoy or things that you’ve always been curious about. Encourage those around you to do the same.
  • Ensure that you eat a healthy and balanced diet.

If your mental health still seems to be declining please do not be abashed to ask for help from mental health experts.

In conclusion, having a sound mind is equally as important as being physical health. Mental health, physical health as well as socioeconomic well-being are all interconnected. As individuals, family and society, we owe ourselves a duty to care for our mental health as much as our physical health. We can beat this pandemic!!!

REFERENCES

About the author

Claire Molen is a 5th year medical student from Nigeria with a passion for writing, mental health, volunteering and sexual and reproductive health. She believes in a world of quality and affordable health-care, where persons can get access to mental healthcare without any form of stigma.

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