Health Systems and Society: ways to reinforce the human power during the pandemic

mental health 2020

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Mr Gabriel Danielli Quintana, a 3 rd Year medical student from the Federal University of Pelotas (UFPel). He 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.

Mental health is one of the main challenges of our era, after all, the prevalence of mental disorders has increased and also their consequences for the social welfare and the economy (according to WHO, depression and anxiety coasts more than US$ 1 trillion per year to the global economy). With the emergence of COVID-19, stressors such as isolation and alcohol consumption increased, worsening the loneliness feelings, consequently intensifying the search for support. During crisis periods, fear and uncertainties dominate the society, to face them we need solid and welcoming social services to reinforce support networks and help us against the anxiety inside our homes. In this scenario, ‘’Suicide Prevention Numbers’’ worldwide are gaining importance and they will be essential to face the current challenges.

These projects are alternatives for those who face feelings of despair and helplessness, and their work also provides a possibility to monitoring alert cases by the competent bodies. It’s universally understood that there are risky behaviors and warning signs that must be monitored preventing possible harm to the individual or the others. In this sense, the actions of the SPNs are an effective strategy to provide social support to those who may be unassisted or those who cannot be supported by the already exhausted health systems, in addition to bringing information to the social health services.

In any case, how can we support mental health without outsourcing the responsibility of the health system without transferring it to the volunteer citizens. An alternative is to incorporate such initiatives into the health policies, improving it and fostering them in every needy place, based on state measures and joint actions with the ‘’third sector’’ agents (as the SPNs). Although its voluntary and informal character, it is important to note that those programs are just complements of the public sector actions used as tools to strengthen the safety nets – especially essential in this moment of psychological crisis-. In addition, there are different levels of emotional stress co-existing: each one is affected by the COVID-19 in a different way. While some go through difficulties, others are with enhanced mental health and are willing to help those who need. Of course, always keeping in mind the volunteers must be monitored, trained and guided by specialists – which is already done in the current model of SPNs-.
Moments of crisis generate greater and more serious demands, which consequently focus efforts and resources in certain areas of ​​medical care, leading other sectors to urge for alternative solutions. Initiatives that encourage altruism and social engagement are the key to mutual benefit in crisis time, after all they offer ways to reframe our difficulties, opening paths for growth and personal overcoming. More than that, they connect people and recreate personal links, avoiding the social fragmentation. It’s time to ‘’think outside the box’’ about health issues, expand care horizons, mobilize society in our favor and reinforce the human power. Together we will always be stronger.

About the author

Gabriel Danielli Quintana is 3 rd Year medical student from the Federal University of Pelotas (UFPel). Affiliated to the IFMSA Brazil and Local Coordinator of the IFMSA UFPel. Interested in Public Health, Mental Health and Medical Education. Member of the Students Academic League of Psychiatry. Enthusiastic of art, innovation, economy and global changes. Already published articles in MSI (IFSMA’s biannual magazine focused on global health perspectives brought by medical students worldwide) and another magazine. Coming from an Italian family, I was born in Ecuador, now I’m living in Brazil. I believe that knowledge and culture are the key to the big changes in the world.

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