Mental and comportamental health in the pandemic context

mental health man

(Andrea Bertozzini, Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Mr. Nícolas Patrícius de Medeiros Leite, a third year medicine student from the State University of Rio Grande do Norte and member of IFMSA Brazil – UERN, 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 writers and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.


The current pandemic by the SARS-CoV-2, the new coronavirus, affects the world population in different ways: while hospital beds are occupied and a fight for life takes place, another great battle has its stage inside the homes of those who are in quarantine or social isolation, and the main weapon is our own mind. In the animal world, when there is danger in sight, the body responds with the necessary mechanisms to fight or flee, and an adrenaline rush occurs; however, modern society presents numerous situations that demonstrate danger, but from which we cannot fight or flee, and what remains is emotional stress, anxiety and feelings of panic that are difficult to get rid of, especially if the cause is persistent.

One study compiled the feelings reported by people during a previous quarantine period, most of which are negative feelings: fear, nervousness, sadness and guilt, while the minority described symptoms of happiness and relief. Depressive and post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms are also shown in the literature and the prolonged quarantine time seems to be a worsening factor. In addition, the lack of basic resources and adequate information are important aspects in this scenario and can worsen psychological stress during the current period; this is notable especially in places like Brazil, where a large part of the population was already in a vulnerable condition even before the pandemic began. So there are two front lines in the fight against the new virus: the health professionals’ one and the individual one, in which everyone must do their part to ease the weight of social distance.

So, what can we do? It is important to remember that the emotional response to social isolation is different for each individual, but it is up to all of us to try our best to reduce the weight of those who suffer most from the psychological consequences. Social networks become even more important for communication when we’re far from the people we love, however, there is also a negative side that consists of the dissemination of false information that can worsen people’s emotional situation. So it is important to establish a filter for reliable information and keep communication always healthy and that includes keeping in mind that our efforts are benefiting many people around us, which makes it a little easier to deal with the situation. In addition, a much-discussed impasse lately has been quarantine versus productivity, especially on these same social media, and the feeling of “doing nothing” is something that increases the negative emotional state of many people; but it is necessary to understand that productivity is related to an improvement in mental health, and not to something that harms it, and to be productive is to do anything you are interested in and bring you good feelings (including doing nothing!). After all, taking care of yourself is also taking care of others.

References:

Brooks S. K., Webster R. K., Smith L. E., Woodland L., Wessely S., Greenberg N., et al. The psychological impact of quarantine and how to reduce it: rapid review of the evidence. Lancet. 2020;395:912-20.

Hawryluck, L., Gold, W. L., Robinson, S., Pogorski, S., Galea, S., & Styra, R. (2004). SARS control and psychological effects of quarantine, Toronto, Canada. Emerging infectious diseases10(7), 1206–1212. https://doi.org/10.3201/eid1007.030703

About the author

Nícolas Patrícius de Medeiros Leite is a third year medicine student from the State University of Rio Grande do Norte and member of IFMSA Brazil – UFRN, where he had the opportunity to be part of extension projects focused on health education. He believes that this education allied with mental sustainability are big steps to the improvement of medical care.

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