Taking care in times of social isolation goes beyond washing hands or wearing masks

washing hands

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Mr. Victor Araújo Rabelo, a 22 year old medical student at UniCesumar, 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 writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

In times of pandemic, it is known that all people must protect themselves through anti-sepsis measures, such as, washing hands, wearing masks, cleaning objects and keeping the distance between people. However, this is not so simple and it is not enough for some people. Social isolation (the main way to stop a pandemic) is the cause of great mental stress for many people. Therefore, we notice that ‘staying immune’ to a wave of factors that erode mental health, goes far beyond hand washing or wearing masks.

During the past few days, the world has been experiencing a moment of paralysis of activities. This has generated several concerns, especially with the economy and health services. Indeed, these concerns are important, nevertheless, they have left the issue of mental health in the background.

People with mental illness naturally carry a ‘burden on the backs’ in their daily lives. Sometimes this ‘burden’ is relatively light and it is possible to be dealt with. At other times, however, it becomes too heavy when stressful situations reflect over it. This is usually observed during social isolation, because a different routine is imposed on the person, preventing them from doing their own activities, such as physical exercises and walking.

The impact on mental health happens more aggressively on vulnerable people, for example, those who either have a mental disorder or are elderly. In this last group, it is possible to observe the fear and insecurity of being away from their families or caregivers, in addition to a greater concern related to death, mainly because they are the main risk group.

In the face of all this, it is necessary for us to empathize with people who suffer from these pandemic times. Simple measures to help them are extremely important. Formulating a schedule with daily activities helps to keep the mind running. Besides, it is possible to include in this schedule, moments to exercise and relax at home to promote the proper functioning of the body and mind, since it is known that physical activities help to promote the releasing of innumerable endogenous substances (endorphins) capable of improving our mood and this is extremely important.

Moreover, it is possible that we can use social networks in a way that helps everyone. The first point is not to trust suspicious information (‘fake-news’), as it can cause anguish and anxiety. The second point is to use social networks to get closer to friends and family.

Only through solidarity and empathy will we be able to overcome this difficult moment. It is up to us to take care of ourselves and hope that all this will pass as quickly as possible. So #stayhome #staysafe.


  1. World Health Organization: Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) advice for the public; online publication; 2020; accessed in April 25, 2020; available in: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public
  2. Ornell Felipe, Schuch Jaqueline B., Sordi Anne O., Kessler Felix Henrique Paim. “Pandemic fear” and COVID-19: mental health burden and strategies. Braz. J. Psychiatry  [Internet]. [cited  2020  Apr  25]. Available from: http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1516-44462020005008201&lng=en.  In press  2020.  Epub Apr 03, 2020.  https://doi.org/10.1590/1516-4446-2020-0008.
  3. World Health Organization: Mental health and psychosocial considerations during the COVID-19 outbreak; 2020.
  4. United Nations Development Programme: COVID-19 pandemic: Humanity needs leadership and solidarity to defeat the coronavirus; online publication; 2020; accessed in April 25, 2020; available in: https://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/coronavirus.html

About the author

Victor Araújo Rabelo is 22 years old medical student. He is currently in the fourth year of Medicine at UniCesumar, Brazil, working as Local Communication and Marketing Director at IFMSA Brazil UniCesumar and Minicourses Coordinator of the Miguel Nicolelis Academic Center. Moreover, he is a member of the Intensive Care League, Surgery League and Medical Clinic League.

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