The impact of COVID-19 pandemic on mental health

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Nimisha Ramesh, a third year medical student studying in Bharati Vidyapeeth Medical
College, Pune, India. 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 writers and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

In a period of just a few months, COVID-19 has turned from a small cluster of cases to a global pandemic, which is not just killing people, but also, affecting economies, trades, businesses, livelihoods and also the physical and mental well-being of all populations.

The physical distancing and lockdown measures being implemented to contain the transmission of the virus, comes with the inherent risk of depriving poor households from being able to sustain their livelihoods. The shortage of food and essential services, even if only for a short period of time, can have devastating effects on their mental health. The economic impact of the pandemic on financial markets, micro-businesses and vulnerable industries has increased the risk of unemployment, further leading to an environment of uncertainty and financial concerns for the least well-paid, self-employed and daily wage workers.

The direct impact of COVID-19 infection has been the loss of lives. The psycho-social impact of the loss of family members and friends cannot be neglected. Furthermore, man being a social animal, the effects of physical distancing measures and movement restrictions, on mental health should not be overlooked. The mental health of the healthcare providers and other essential workers who have been providing essential services while being susceptible to the infection, represent another cause for concern. Domestic violence, abuse and being witness to the violence of a family member, while being confined at homes, can have serious influence on mental health.

Adapting to change is the key to survival. Today, the duration of these lockdowns and the international fight against this global pandemic remains unclear. In this situation, where person to person interaction has reduced, schedules and routines have been interrupted and access to care providers has become limited, many psychologists have come ahead to provide free online counselling. Learning and making use of the various telephone hotlines available and being a part of reliable support groups on social media can help us manage our mental health in this chaotic time. Having a structured schedule, establishing a simple morning routine, taking adequate rest and practicing self-care by using strategies such as breathing exercises, relaxation exercises and cultivating hobbies, can be useful. It is also important to minimize the time being spent on watching, reading or listening to news about COVID-19 while also limiting the sources of news to only the reliable ones.

Some frontline workers, and people of certain ethnicities and nationalities may experience ostracization due to stigma; which can be detrimental to the mental well-being of affected individuals and their families. It is important to counteract misconceptions leading to stigmatization of any population. Health care providers must ensure rest between work-shifts, take care of basic needs and stay in contact with family and friends.

This pandemic is a test of our solidarity and our abilities to cope with change, and it is vital that we take care of our mental as well as physical health, while extending support to others.

About the author

Nimisha Ramesh is a third year medical student studying in Bharati Vidyapeeth Medical
College, Pune, India. She is currently working as the Local Officer on Public Health for the term 2019-2020. She has won various debates, extempores and pageants. She is a public speaker and a singer. In her spare time, she records cover songs for her YouTube channel. She is interested in research and is a public health enthusiast. The picture of a healthy and happy world where every person is able to live a healthy and productive life, irrespective of their socioeconomic background or financial conditions, is what motivates her.

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