The Covid-19 pandemic: how to take care of mental health?

coronavirus

(Engin akyurt, Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Stephany Caroline Menezes da Silva, a student in the 3rd semester of the medical course at the State University of Amazonas (UEA), located in Manaus, Amazonas, 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.


With the Covid-19 pandemic, a series of feelings are aroused in the general population, such as anxiety, fear, anguish, stress and panic (1). In this population are included people with different ages and social classes who deal with such sudden but necessary social isolation. However, we should’t analyze these people from a single perspective, since each individual carries a personal predisposition for the development of mental health problems. But it is indisputable that social isolation and the several feelings experienced in the face of an epidemic can begin or enhance states that are harmful to the mental health of many people (2).

Thus, it is necessary to rethink individual and daily attitudes that may be contributing to a mental health imbalance and that can generate diseases. One of the ways to initiate this self-care with mental health is to recognize the emotions that are activated in times of crisis. Accepting these emotions is the initial step towards emotional control in the face of the pandemic. In addition, it’s necessary to deconstruct habits that are harmful to psychological well-being, such as constantly thinking about the disease or excessively monitor news and information from unreliable sources, who often seek sensationalism to alarm the population, causing more fear and stress. To stay informed, it is only necessary to seek information from reliable sources and at reserved times, such as government websites (3).

It is also important to protect children and the elderly from unnecessary information that will only cause panic and stress. Alerting them in a positive way and teaching them how to protect themselves will generate a healthier environment for them and the family as a whole. However, many elderly people live alone, which can increase the feeling of loneliness in the face of a pandemic situation. Thus, the ideal would be for each family to maintain virtual contact with these elderly people. (4)

Looking for other activities that add to leisure and that are of personal taste can be great stimulants for mental health, such as starting a stopped project, starting to read a book, tidying up your home environment, doing physical activities at home or in a protected place, watching movies or series, meditating, keeping religious or spiritual activities away from crowds, among others. However, news reports point to an increase in complaints of domestic violence during the quarantine period in Brazil, which shows the situation of physical and psychological violence experienced by women, the elderly and children because they are in greater contact with the aggressor (5). So, if the family environment is violent, it is important that the victim makes a report or asks for help from a social assistance network.

It is important to remember that if any acquaintance or family member has symptoms of Covid-19, there is no need to panic. The search for medical guidance and respect for the conduct proposed by WHO are essential and, with these individual daily care, people can maintain good mental health. 

References:

  1. Ornell F, Schuch JB, Sordi AO, Kessler FHP. “Pandemic fear” and COVID-19: mental health burden and strategies. Braz. J. Psiquiatria [online]. 2020 [cited 2020 abr 18]. Availabre from: http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1516-44462020005008201&lng=en
  2. Torales J, O’Higgins M, Castaldelli-Maia JM, Ventriglio A. The outbreak of COVID-19 coronavirus and its impact on global mental health. Int J Soc Psychiatry [online]. 2020 [cited 2020 abr 18], p. 1-4; Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32233719/
  3. World Health Organization (WHO). Mental Health Considerations during COVID-19 Outbreak, 2020
  4. Federal University of São Carlos. Taking care of your mental health in times of coronavirus. Laboratory of Occupational Therapy and Mental Health, 2020. Available from: http://www.saci.ufscar.br/data/solicitacao/41654_coronavirus_saudemental.pdf

About the author

Stephany Caroline Menezes da Silva is a student in the 3rd semester of the medical course at the State University of Amazonas (UEA), located in Manaus, Amazonas, Brazil. She has been a member of the International Federation of Medical Students Association (IFMSA) since 2019, currently serving as the local director of a committee pertaining to sexual and reproductive health and rights including HIV / AIDS (SCORA). She believes that, as a student in the field, the right and duty to contribute to the construction of a society based on respect and representation.

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