The hidden pandemic: mental illness

depressed 2021

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Jasmine Elliott, a third year of medicine at Monash University, Australia. 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 Institute for Disease Modelling, the estimated infection-fatality ratio of COVID-19 was approximately 1%.

20% of patients with anorexia nervosa die in a 20-year time frame.

That’s 5 times the expected rate within that age group due to physical health issues, and 32 times the rate of suicide (Australian Dept. Health, 2005).

How are these two issues even remotely related?

In Australia, gyms closed, people were advised to self-isolate and grocery store shelves were regularly restocked and promptly emptied. Our on-the-go lifestyle went inside, almost overnight to minimise the spread of a contagious and dangerous pandemic.

On my Instagram feed, I didn’t see people scared of COVID. I saw a tsunami of fear about weight gain. We instead heard of things like the ‘quarantine 15,’ or the 15-pound weight gain during self-isolation.

In a society where diet culture already permeates our every move, the megaphone of ‘wellness’ and worth being equated with a thin body is only reinforcing the aetiology of another fatal illness – eating disorders. The community of young people struggling with this mental illness are struggling more than ever, with EndED receiving an increase in people seeking assistance by 30% and the Butterfly Foundation receiving more calls and messages.

Recently I was discharged from hospital with one main prescription. In order to stay alive, I needed to gain over double the ‘quarantine 15’ which is terrifying society so much. Already, I have only met one of my ongoing treatment team in person. As someone whose perception of eating and exercise was so distorted, imagine trying to recover in a world where this distorted messaging has become the norm.

Yes. Stress contributes to eating more energy and nutrient-dense food. Our bodies are preparing us for a disaster, a situation of scarcity and the potential of contracting a disease. It’s not necessarily a ‘binge’ or an abnormal phenomenon- we’re innately programmed for fight or flight and energy is protection.

Being concerned about gaining weight, nutrition and lack of exercised might not mean that you have an eating disorder. By all means, participate in that home workout, make the kale smoothie and eat nutritiously.

But equally, ensure you’re not participating in the damaging dialogue making weight gain the enemy in the context of a global pandemic. Ensure that you’re not indirectly contributing to the culture that, mixed with isolation, reduced access to professional help and a climate so disconnected from control forms the perfect recipe for eating disorder recovery relapse.

For some people, the very things you’re terrified of – resting and eating – are necessary for their recovery.

So please, consider whether you are truly more afraid of a few pounds, or a fatal illness.

About the author

Jasmine Elliott is in her third year of medicine at Monash University and a passionate advocate for youth mental health, as a volunteer and as an eheadspace Peer Moderator, providing online support for struggling young people. She is strongly motivated by the experiences of those around her, in addition to her own to make a positive impact on the mental health journey – increasing access to help by decreasing the stigma around seeking it. Jasmine is also heavily involved in rural health, and broader health advocacy within her roles at the Australian Medical Students’ Association.

the sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Here are three ways blockchain can change refugees’ lives

We’re fighting the pandemic. Now it’s time to eradicate the infodemic

‘All efforts must be made’ to ensure peaceful elections for Guinea-Bissau, Security Council hears

Coronavirus: harmonised standards for medical devices to respond to urgent needs

COVID-19 vaccines: MEPs call for more clarity and transparency

Young and unemployed the perfect victims of ‘vultures’

Activist investors are more powerful than ever. Here’s what that means for the economy

How will Brexit affect higher education in the EU?

Where are the world’s nuclear weapons?

Mergers: Commission opens in-depth investigation into proposed acquisition of Transat by Air Canada

US, Russia oblige each other in Syria and Ukraine selling off allies

After Rio Grande tragedy, UNICEF chief highlights ‘dire’ detention centres on US-Mexico border

Bolivia: UN underlines support for ‘credible, transparent and inclusive’ election

9 ways to strengthen the global economic response to COVID-19

The South China Sea Arbitration: Illegal, Illegitimate and Invalid

2,300 migrant children in Central American ‘caravan’ need protection, UNICEF says

Corporate bond debt continues to pile up

Is it just visa-free travel that Erdogan demands from the EU to not break the migration deal?

Trade in counterfeit goods costs UK economy billions of euros

Refugees now make up 1% of the world’s population

What wealth managers can learn from family dynamics

Climate change and health: creating global awareness and using earth resources wisely

Swedish PM Löfven: “Our common values must guide us to an even better future”

Climate change will force us to redefine economic growth

A climate scientist explains what the melting Arctic means for the world

Greece returns to markets at a high cost to taxpayers, after four years out in the cold

How digital entrepreneurs will help shape the world after the COVID-19 pandemic

MEPs approve new, more inclusive Erasmus+ programme

US must abide by humanitarian refugee accords: UN refugee agency

Eurozone: Even good statistics mean deeper recession

UN global counter-terrorism strategy review an ‘overarching vision for the future’: Assembly President

The next talent opportunity for the digital workplace? Neurodiversity

Renovation Wave: doubling the renovation rate to cut emissions, boost recovery and reduce energy poverty

5 inspirational women with important lessons for success in business

Three UN workers killed following Benghazi car bomb attack, as Security Council meets in emergency session, honours their ‘ultimate sacrifice’

A refugee from Syria cries out: “I’m not just a number!”

Crisis hit countries cut down public spending on education

Assembly of European Regions @ European Business Summit 2014: The European regions on the path to recovery

World Cancer Day: Early cervical cancer diagnosis could save lives of over 300,000 women

The EU prepares for the end of LIBOR: the Commission welcomes the agreement reached between the European Parliament and the Council on financial benchmarks

Where labour costs the most (and least) in the European Union

Escalation in Syria fighting cause for ‘great concern’ says UN chief, dozens more civilians dead or injured

UN chief laments ending of Cold War-era disarmament treaty

To meet development goals, UN agriculture agency ‘cannot only focus on tackling hunger anymore’

The world condemned by neo-liberals to feed trillions to banks: the New Deal exorcised

Understanding the challenge surrounding the Covid-19 vaccine campaign

Medical students: The need for emigration

Algorithms are being used to convict criminals and decide jail time. We need to make sure they are fair

UN chief appoints Luis Alfonso de Alba as Special Envoy for the 2019 Climate Summit

FROM THE FIELD: Faces and Voices of Conflict

Key Brazilian border crossing for Venezuela refugees reopens as asylum numbers pass last year’s total

Junior Enterprises as a solution for Youth Entrepreneurship

Tenants ‘forced out their homes’ by global investment firms, say UN experts

The challenge of maintaining interest in Primary Health Care in medical students

LGBTQ+: The social evolution of a minority

Trust in OECD governments back at pre-crisis levels as governments seek to be more open and engaged

Why Eurozone can afford spending for growth

World’s 1.8 billion youth must ‘have a say in the future of the planet’

Returning to free movement across borders is of utmost importance

The European Commission cuts roaming charges. But “it’s not enough”…

More Stings?

Trackbacks

  1. […] The hidden pandemic: mental illness  The European Sting “self isolation when:1h” – Google News […]

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s