Providing mental health during pandemic times

mental health 2020

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Rebeca Feitosa Dória Alves, a second year medical student at Universidade Tiradentes in Aracaju-SE (Brazil). 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.

A new situation has started in the whole world and seems it will last longer than everybody thought. Coronavirus is an unpleasant surprise which made us question priorities and routine, requiring a quick adaptation that created  consequences in several spheres. One of them was mental health, affected by disorder and impotence in pandemic.

The World Health Organization has defined Mental Health as a state of well-being in which individuals realize their abilities, are able to deal with the normal tensions of life and work productively and fruitfully for their community. With containment measures, it is a predictable consequence that this described state will change drastically. Scientific texts are conclusive in the relationship between decreased social circulation and increased stress levels. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in US, associates quarantine with sleep disorders and increased consumption of alcohol, tobacco and illicit drugs.

Expecting people to have greater productivity during this global moment is utopian and cruel in the face of the difficulties faced. Despite people being inserted in an ultramodern society, with all the tools to assist online interaction, to consider human behavior like a phoenix is ​​to belittle feelings and afflictions, that have their importance in emotional reading. The same society that seems to solve all the problems starts to pressure people to give more and better results as reaction and from that comes insecurity and frustration.

First of all, it is important to be careful about what will be seen on social media and television content. To protect emotional stability, networks must transmit news in an objective manner, without sensationalism and encourage the fight against false information. Another measure is publicizing tips to maintain mental health.

Considering that isolation can also cause an anxiety to perform all available activities, the main idea is to avoid comparisons and, if necessary, move away from social media for a moment. Best way to keep mental balance and express thoughts is practicing online therapy (recommended by Federal Council of Psychology, in Brazil).

To improve mental health during COVID-19, is important to know that we shouldn’t worry so much about something we can’t control. It´s fundamental to recognize work of health professionals and trust them, plus following the recommendations of health organizations. In their case, who are in direct combat, dialogue can be an ally in preserving mental health. An alternative is joining Balint groups, where the relationship with patients is discussed and each member can strengthen the other.

Once it is understood that is normal to feel lost, it is indicated to have organization for specific tasks. It is essential to set aside a moment for leisure too, respecting the established rules. Since physical union cannot happen, virtual support is indispensable to give strength in the midst of this situation, so is valid to offer help, if you can.

Promoting mental health shouldn’t be treated as a second option. Self-care is not superfluous and it is essential to set  boundaries and search for good psychological status in the best way.

About the author

Rebeca Feitosa Dória Alves is second year medical student at Universidade Tiradentes in Aracaju-SE (Brazil). She’s member of IFMSA Brazil- UNIT since 2018 and acts as Local Rights and Peace Director for the second time in management. She believes in the power of information, science, medicine and social vision to improve better community relations.

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