COVID-19: how does living in a pandemic impact youth’s mental health?

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Bianca Costa Dias, a 2nd year medical student at the Faculdade de Medicina de Marília (FAMEMA), in Brazil. 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.

In early 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. Since then, it has impacted and changed routines, besides causing an almost constant concern of getting sick and dying because of the disease. Furthermore, the amount of morbidity and mortality due to the virus fuels psychological distress. COVID-19 is an infectious disease; thus, quarantine rises as a way to decrease its spread. However, the confinement and the decrease in social contact that follow the quarantine, isolation, and social distancing contribute to social distress, especially among the youth.

            In this context, living in a pandemic impacts mental health in many ways. Those ways can vary from the onset of stress-related disorders to the aggravation of previous ones. To that extent, the growth in anxiety, depression, psychosis, and perceived stress among young people. Furthermore, social distancing and confinement with dysfunctional families corroborate with impact in mental health in that population specifically. With this in mind, vulnerable youth is more likely to develop an addiction. For that matter, cyber dependency rises as a two-way dilemma in which the tool used to keep in touch with others becomes an unhealthy addiction.

            Moreover, hitherto the new coronavirus has taken almost 4 million lives, let alone the number of people infected. Alongside it, millions more mourn the loss of their loved ones. Nevertheless, due to social distancing and quarantine, the mourning process culturally accepted cannot be done as it previously was. Therefore, a growing feeling of hopelessness may rise on those who couldn’t say their final goodbyes. Such psychological burdens play a role in youths; on that matter, the youngest ones usually deal with that unsettling feeling of hopelessness with defiant behavior.

            Lastly, the current pandemic has both individual and familiar effects. Namely, health care workers’ sons and daughters are more likely to have psychological implications from the current pandemic. Anxiety rates rise with the frightening thought of an unavoidable parent’s death since it is their work. Another effect on mental health resides in the collective fear and anticipation due to the virus. For instance, parental stress and reservations can be internalized by their adolescents. When it comes to that, the current situation may trigger or develop personal or familiar trauma, which fuels the impact of living in a pandemic on young people’s mental health.

            To sum up, living in a pandemic has notable and varied effects on the mental state of younger people. The resulting psychological distress reflects on the youth, not only by the virus being the cause of millions of deaths but also due to the necessary measures to slow down and stop its spread. Anxiety as well as PTSD, for example, are heavily related to the present social distancing environment. In a nutshell, the human being is a sociable living being and COVID-19 soothes both of its predicatives: life and sociability, having noticeable implications in its mental health, especially in youth.


About the author

Bianca Costa Dias is a 2nd year medical student at the Faculdade de Medicina de Marília (FAMEMA), in Brazil. She is a local coordinator of the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. She believes that an effective doctor-patient relationship contributes to the recovery and betterment of the patient as a whole. She believes that the psychological state, alongside the social and biological dimensions, is relevant and necessary to be evaluated by health care workers.

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