Mental health in the context of a pandemic: social distance

mental health how

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Maria Karoline Silveira Cavalcante, a third year medicine student from the State University of Rio Grande do Norte and member of IFMSA Brazil – UERN. 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.

We are experiencing an atypical scenario, a pathogen, the SARS-COV-2 virus, the new highly transmissible coranavirus that affects the world, causing a widespread disease. Medical assistance is often still hegemonic, associated with a biologicist view of the disease, especially in the current context, which requires quick and effective responses to fight the virus. Amid guidelines from the World Health Organization (WHO), presidential decrees and ordinances, whether state or municipal, we see an attempt to establish social isolation within the conditions of existence of each individual.

Isolation has been shown to be an efficient resource in several countries around the world in combating the virus, however we cannot fail to analyze its consequences on the psychological of people, especially in a society adorned by a historical moment conducive to so many triggers for mental illnesses. Today’s society is psychologically stagnant and with the decreed social withdrawal, problems that extend beyond the biologicist field of the new coronavirus pandemic are visible: they affect the socialization of individuals and, consequently, collaborate in cases of emotional and mental imbalance as needed to keep the distance from the closest and dearest individuals.

In a century already affected by neuronal pathologies, coexistence with depression, hyperactivity (ADHD) borderline personality disorder (TPL) or burnout syndrome (SB) is commonplace, as indicated by Byung-Chul, these problems end up intensifying, associating with the biologicist field of the new coronavirus pandemic, starting to reach the socialization of individuals and, consequently, collaborates for cases of emotional and mental imbalance according to the need to keep the distance from the closest and dearest individuals. The potential threat and risk of exposure to the pathology generate numerous emotions, feelings of fear and anxiety, activating physiological mechanisms of fight and flight, with positive feedback from the autonomous system, generating physical pathologies of considerable severity, which are added to pathologies of mental origin and have an impact on the quality of life of these people in times of pandemic.

Social distancing is necessary so that the new coronavirus does not take on greater proportions, however psychological and multiprofessional support is necessary, both for the general population and for health professionals, with a focus on promoting mental health, associated with the dissemination of information, arising from reliable sources and ignore the famous “fake news” so that there is no toxic coexistence in times of crisis. It is necessary for everyone to collaborate in this fight, a fight that crosses the medical front lines, affecting humanistic, social norms and mental health, because society can be compared to what is called by Émile Durkheim “biological body”, in which the body parts must interact with each other in order to acquire harmony and homeostasis.


ORNELL, Felipe. “Pandemic fear” and COVID-19: mental health burden and strategies. Brazilian Journal Of Psychiatry, [s.l.], 17 abr. 2020. FapUNIFESP (SciELO).

About the author

Maria Karoline Silveira Cavalcante is a third year medicine student from the State University of Rio Grande do Norte and member of IFMSA Brazil – UERN, where she is also director of Sexual & Reproductive Health and Rights including HIV&AIDS (LORA-D). She had the oportunity to be part of extension projects as an extension worker and coordinator, carrying out health education activities and improving the quality of life, in which mental health is highlighted and addressed, being considered of great importance in medical care.

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  1. A year with a lot of bad things, wishing the whole world would get over it. Thanks for your very meaningful post.

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