Mental distress during the pandemic: is there a way out?


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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Mr. Rafael Mosconi de Freitas and Ms. Isabella Beltramia, 2 Brazilian medical students who believe that there is nothing more beautiful than the human side of the human being. 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.

In 1851 Schopenhauer conceived the hedgehog (or porcupine) dilemma, that says briefly: this animal, full of thorns all over its body, wanted to warm up on a cold day, unfortunately, the closer it got to the others, the hurter they got. But also, the farther they went, the colder they felt. In this way, they needed to find a safe distance between themselves to survive. I respectfully borrow this metaphor to start a more current reflection: we are isolated, attempting our best to flatten the curve. How, then, can we balance the fact that we need to be physically apart from each other, but also be careful not to get so far away that our mental health is compromised? What can we do to lessen this burden? Is there a way out?

It seems to me that social networks have never been more used than ever before. The most obvious tip is: use it to stay connected with the ones you love! Coexistence, even digital, can reduce this loneliness that has been bothering us. But, as for social networks, the most important word is “caution”! The biggest problem is that, on these platforms, many people take advantage to disseminate false information, creating more chaos than helping the mental health of those who consume its content. What individuals can do about this is to be careful: filter the content you consume, look for solid references! There are a lot of hateful people, do not let them make you feel smaller than them!

Another very common thing to hear is the idea that we now have a lot of free time! Time to develop skills, learn languages, take online courses, keep your body in shape by exercising. This is a speech, I dare to say, extremely wearing. It does not necessarily mean that you are undisciplined if you cannot learn German by yourself. If you gain some extra pounds, that is okay too! People are not living the same reality and this charge is harmful. It is as if sanity were a glass almost full, right on the edge of the table, on the verge of falling and breaking. To charge productivity at all costs in a moment as delicate as the one we are experiencing is like dripping more drops into this glass.

Our greatest ally, at this moment, is art. In all its forms and expressions: music, books, films, poetry … whether as a viewer or as a performer, hold on to what arouses good feelings, without the charge coming along side by side, art exclusively as a form of reflection and pleasure.

Our mental health is only preserved when it is understood that being close is not physical, that respecting our limit and doing a little is already doing lots! And, not least, when you realize that art in all its expressions is a great way out! This makes it much easier to have a warm heart and to be able to push that glass right to the center of the table!

About the authors

Rafael Mosconi de Freitas, a Brazilian medical student who believes that there is nothing more beautiful than the human side of the human being. And Isabella Beltrami, also a brasilian medical student, that just want to take care of those who needs the most.

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