Living in a pandemic: what are the effects of COVID-19 on the mental health of the youth?

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Katerina Drakos, a 5th year medical student from the Lisbon School of Medicine. She is affiliated with 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.


Since the COVID-19 pandemic descended upon us, in 2020, our youth has replaced physical human contact with the harsh blue light of the laptop. Classes and events that were once the highlight of the day became monotonous and tedious. The negative impact of COVID-19 is unmistakable and may have contributed towards the increased incidence of mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression, and consequently, suicide.1

If we analyze recent literature: restricted social contact; forced lockdowns; the struggle of watching parents suffer with unemployment, fear of infection, uncertainty, and financial difficulties have all contributed to the deteriorating mental health of the youth, although we mustn’t discard the effect of guilt. Guilt may be present when meeting a friend after having been alone for months, knowing that although it is allowed by governmental regulations, those 15 minutes might have negative repercussions on the youth’s family. The long-term effects on their mental health are clear, and following the initial acute stressful impact, long-lasting fear and stress has become a common occurrence for young people. Many will find it hard to develop their social interaction skills and will become increasingly cyber dependent. It will be a while before they feel comfortable enough to rejoin society and live with the community to the fullest.2

Having considered some of the important factors and stressors, we should also reflect upon what we can do to help reduce the incidence of mental disorders amongst the youth. Recently I attended a talk which explored the use of the terms “physical distancing”, as opposed to “social distancing”. The speakers claimed that the term “social distancing” could lead to negative effects on the mental health of our population (particularly the young), as they would feel lonelier and socially displaced. By substituting the term “social” with “physical”, people were more aware that the only restraints imposed on them were strictly physical and that the social factors are paramount to protect us and our mental health. This hypothesis was developed according to Durkheim and his theory on suicide, where there are two major core principles:

“(1) that the structure of suicide rates is a positive function of the structure of a group or class of people’s social relationships and (2) that social relationships vary according to their level of integration and (moral) regulation”.3 Therefore, the word “social” will likely have a tremendous impact on suicidal ideation as it enhances the social isolation and integration.

To conclude, our youth has been a mediatic spotlight, having been blamed for the number of growing cases4 and, recently, as governments consider their priority with respect to the COVID-19 vaccination. It is undeniable that their mental health has been greatly affected and it’s essential for us, as medical students, to help those in need. This can be as simple as picking up the phone and calling a friend or helping someone with severe symptoms seek a health professional. We must collectively approach this issue as a priority and accept that social reintegration will not be an easy feat.

References

  1. PÚBLICO. 2021. “E depois da covid-19? Ficam o medo e as sequelas psicológicas por resolver.” [online] Available at: <https://www.publico.pt/2021/06/17/sociedade/noticia/covid19-ficam-medo-sequelas-psicologicas-resolver-1966766&gt; [Accessed 25 June 2021].
  2. Singh S, Roy D, Sinha K, Parveen S, Sharma G, Joshi G. “Impact of COVID-19 and lockdown on mental health of children and adolescents: A narrative review with recommendations.” Psychiatry Res. 2020 Nov;293:113429. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2020.113429. Epub 2020 Aug 24. PMID: 32882598; PMCID: PMC7444649.
  3. Mueller AS, Abrutyn S, Pescosolido B and Diefendorf S (2021) “The Social Roots of Suicide: Theorizing How the External Social World Matters to Suicide and Suicide Prevention.” Front. Psychol. 12:621569. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.621569
  4. PÚBLICO. 2021. “Quem está a fazer crescer novos casos? A população entre os 20 e os 29 anos, diz Costa.” [online] Available at: <https://www.publico.pt/2021/01/14/sociedade/noticia/crescer-novos-casos-populacao-20-29-anos-costa-1946400&gt; [Accessed 25 June 2021].

About the author

Katerina Drakos is a 5th year medical student from the Lisbon School of Medicine and is a member of the Medical Students Association of Portugal, ANEM-Portugal, National Member Organization (NMO) of the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations (IFMSA). She is one of the two Portuguese National Exchange Officers and works closely with other mobility issues in her NMO. She is particularly interested in mental health and psychiatric disorders and advocates for the freedom of expression, gender equity and initiatives that keep students well-informed regarding current events.

the sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Australia urged to evacuate offshore detainees amid widespread, acute mental distress

Any doubt?

From funders to partners: elevating community expertise to help communities thrive

German opposition win in Lower Saxony felt all over Europe

London is becoming the world’s first National Park City

Yemen consultations have started, insists top UN negotiator

Commission approves emergency measures to protect eastern Baltic cod

How data can help mining companies tackle their trust deficit

From drought to floods in Somalia; displacement and hunger worsen, says UN

From raised fists at the 1968 Olympics to taking the knee: A history of racial justice protests in sport

Will the European Court of Justice change data privacy laws to tackle terrorism?

This is how travel hotspots are fighting back against overtourism

Do all you can to resolve climate change ‘sticking points’ UN chief urges South-East Asian leaders, in Bali

Four lessons from Africa on building effective business ecosystems

Australian homes are turning to solar power in record numbers

European research priorities for 2021-2027 agreed with member states

Meeting the basic needs of our healthcare workers

Mental health: a medical school’s demand

Embracing the diversity in a multicultural city of Romania

The EU Commission lets money market funds continue the unholy game of banks

How the power of sport can bring us together and drive social justice

EU Blue Card: Commission welcomes political agreement on new rules for highly skilled migrant workers

Why building consumer trust is the key to unlocking AI’s true potential

Ukraine’s new political order not accepted in Crimea

Protecting European consumers: toys and cars on top of the list of dangerous products

This is how New York plans to end its car culture

Progress against torture in Afghan detention centres, but Government needs to do more, says UN report

European Citizens’ Initiative: Commission registers ‘Mandatory food labelling Non-Vegetarian / Vegetarian / Vegan’ initiative’

Is South Korea set to lose from its FTA with the EU?

Anti-vaccers: does the empty can rattle the most?

The role of public affairs in student NGOs

Future Forces Forum: Prague will be hosting the most important project in the field of Defence and Security

Latin America’s cities are ready to take off. But their infrastructure is failing them

Political power of women suffering ‘serious regression’, General Assembly President warns

7 top things to know about coronavirus today

How global trade can save lives and livelihoods – and help protect the planet

EU job-search aid worth €9.9 million for 1,858 former Air France workers

European Semester 2018 Spring Package: Commission issues recommendations for Member States to achieve sustainable, inclusive and long-term growth

COVID-19: Save European culture and values, MEPs tell Commission

Children suffering ‘atrocities’ as number of countries in conflict hits new peak: UNICEF

We need to rethink ESG to ensure access to water and sanitation for all

International Court of Justice orders Pakistan to review death penalty for Indian accused of spying

Rise in violent conflict shows prevention ‘more necessary than ever’: UN chief

Top UN political official updates Security Council on Iran nuclear deal

It’s not summer holidays what lead to the bad August of the German economy

How can the world end viral hepatitis by 2030? 5 experts explain

How to talk about climate change: 5 tips from the front lines

Failure to open accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia is a mistake

Myanmar doing too little to ensure displaced Rohingya return: UN refugee agency chief

Further reforms in Sweden can drive growth, competitiveness and social cohesion

EU-UK relations: solutions found to help implementation of the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland

Statistics show the ugly face of youth training schemes

Croatian Presidency outlines priorities to EP committees

Media and entertainment in flux: it’s time for the close-up

5 droughts that changed human history

Are the G20 leaders ready to curb corporate tax-avoidance?

European Youth, quo vadis?

China is the first non-EU country to invest in Europe’s €315 billion Plan

EU institutions agree on priorities for coming years: A common agenda for our recovery and renewed vitality

Coronavirus Global Response: EIB and Commission pledge additional €4.9 billion

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s