Better understanding the psychological impact caused by the COVID-19 Pandemic

covid heat

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Julia Hillesheim and Ms. Bárbara Okabaiasse Luizeti, two medical doctors at Unicesumar in
Maringá, Brazil. They are 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 writers and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

Mental health is understood as an individual attribute, that is, something that belongs to the individual, his mind, his brain and, in fact, says a lot about himself. However, man lives in society and, because of this, it directly interferes in the mental health of others. Correlating these facts with the current global situation (the pandemic of COVID-19) we can understand how a shared situation has implications in different spheres of man’s life: family organization, closing schools, companies, changes in work routines, isolation, leading to feelings of helplessness and abandonment.

Furthermore, each human being has a perception of the current situation, so each individual reacts differently. In this sense, some have more risk factors to trigger psychic pathology in quarantine times to the detriment of others. The pandemic triggers fear – the fear of being infected, the fear of infecting a family member at risk, the fear of economic collapse – which increases the levels of anxiety and stress in healthy individuals and intensifies the symptoms of those with pre-existing psychiatric disorders.

It also highlights the impact of the disease on the mental health of the individual who is infected (or suspected) and needs to isolate himself, these patients can suffer intense emotional and behavioral reactions, such as: loneliness, boredom, anxiety, insomnia and fear. In addition, ease of access to communication technologies and the transmission of sensational, inaccurate or false information can increase harmful social reactions, such as anger and aggressive behavior. For this, the solution can be found in the theory of the blank slate of human knowledge advocated by John Locke “man is born as a blank paper and fills it with his experiences throughout life”.

In this sense, the doctor, the scientist and all those who have studied the disease have their role fulfilled in this regard and, therefore, can disclose information about the subject and whenever possible refute false news. In addition, other individual and collective actions must be taken, for example: training the health team to provide mental health assistance; providing psychological first aid; multidisciplinary mental health teams (including psychiatrists, psychiatric nurses, clinical psychologists and other mental health professionals); establishment of safe psychological counseling services (for example, via electronic devices or applications).

Finally, individual actions are also important, such as: being patient with the elderly and children who often do not understand isolation; one must eradicate the inexplicable prejudice against Chinese, moreover, not be invasive with people who have already had the disease, for example “positive COVID-19 family”; take care of food and avoid the use of tobacco or other drugs; recognize that it is a stressful situation and know how to identify whether fear becomes pathological; the anguish experienced in isolation is felt in a subjective way, therefore, the individual can make a self-analysis and, in this way, establish the attitudes for which he has more affinity (reading books, exercising).

About the authora

Julia Hillesheim is a 23 years old fourth year medical student at Unicesumar in
Maringá, Brazil. She is passionate about Psychiatry and Neurology and thinks
everything about the mind, the brain, is fantastic. She believes in humanized medicine,
especially within psychiatry, the doctor has a duty to understand that that patient also
has a life and a history. She did an internship in primary care, she was in contact with
vulnerable patients and she looks forward to being able to see them again. In addition,
people with mental illness still suffer prejudice and she believes that it is the role of the
doctor to fight against this prejudice.
Bárbara Okabaiasse Luizeti is a 20 years old medical student at UniCesumar. She is a
member of CAMN (Academic Center Miguel Nicolelis), Scientific Director of LACGAM
(Academic League of General Surgery and Anesthesiology of Maringá), Active member
of The BRIGHTER Meta-Research Group and Regional Assistant of the Scientific
Team of IFMSA Brazil. She has always been dedicated to helping vulnerable
populations from extracurricular projects, and disseminating health information to lay
people and academics.

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