Normal reactions to the abnormality of the pandemic

covid abnormality

(Mick Haupt, Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Mr. Matheus da Silveira Maia, 19 years old, graduating from the 1st period of the Medicine course at the State University of Pará (UEPA), Santarém, Amazonia, Brazil. 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.


The famous American philosopher William James warned, “The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.” However, in times of exception, as caused by the emergence of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, when feelings of anguish, fear, sadness and loneliness become the inevitable consequences of a potentially lethal and extremely contagious virus, transmute thoughts, as James advocated, it is undoubtedly an arduous exercise for mental health that, in obscure periods brought on by global epidemics, is tested and sometimes shaken daily.

According to the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz), it is estimated that between one third and half of the population exposed to an epidemic may suffer some psychopathological manifestation, if there is no specific care intervention for the reactions and symptoms manifested¹. This statistic is the result of several questions and individual fears that were potentiated by a moment marked by doubts and uncertainties, as aroused by the French thinker Jean-Baptiste Massillon, “The uncertainty of events, always more difficult to bear than the event itself”. Fears of dying, losing people close to you, eliminating livelihoods, being socially excluded, transmitting the virus to others, as well as distrust in the management and coordination processes of biosafety protocols¹, are agglutinating factors for the development of psychic crisis, which the World Health Organization (WHO) defines as that situation generated by an external vital event that exceeds the person’s emotional response capacity. That is, their coping mechanisms are insufficient and there is an imbalance and inability to adapt psychologically².

However, despite the significant amount of problems inherent to the coronavirus pandemic that directly affect mental health, it is possible, through simplistic, but impacting actions, to stabilize emotions, reduce the chances of chronic psychological reactions relevant to the moment of instability and, in particular, offer support to citizens of different degrees of vulnerability, such as the elderly, children and health professionals.

Therefore, it is vital to reduce the time spent watching or listening to media coverage and to seek information only from trusted entities; keep the socio-affective network active, establishing contact, even if virtual, through video calls, with family, friends and colleagues; Invest in exercises and actions that help to reduce the level of acute stress (meditation, reading, breathing exercises, among other mechanisms that help to situate thinking in the present moment, as well as stimulate the resumption of experiences and skills used in difficult times of the to manage emotions during the epidemic); reframing life plans and strategies, in order to continue producing plans adapted to the conditions associated with the pandemic; promote the expression of feelings of family members. Children, adolescents and the elderly need help to express concerns and anxieties³.

Accordingly to Franz Kafka, “Solidarity is the feeling that best expresses respect for human dignity”, being in solidarity is the master key for the community to bear the emotional burden in times of pandemic.

References

  1. Mental Health and Psychosocial Care in Pandemic COVID-19: Ministry of Health, Fundação Oswaldo Cruz. Available at: <https://www.fiocruzbrasilia.fiocruz.br/&gt;. Accessed on: 04/20/2020
  2. Protection of mental health in times of epidemics: Pan American Health Organization. Available at: <https://www.paho.org/hq/dmdocuments/2009/Protecao-da-Saude-Mental-em-Situaciones-de- Epidemics>. Accessed on 19/04/2020
  3. Primer for coping with stress in times of pandemic: PsiCOVIDa Task Force. Available at: <https://portal.coren-sp.gov.br/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Cartilha-Psicovida&gt;. Accessed on: 04/19/2020

About the author

Article written by Matheus da Silveira Maia, 19 years old, graduating from the 1st period of the Medicine course at the State University of Pará (UEPA), Santarém, Amazonia, Brazil. He is a member of the International Federation of Medical Students (IFMSA Brasil). Working at the respective institution since 2020 at the National Department of Human Rights and Peace.

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