The Silent Pandemic: The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Camila Marie Ramos, a third-year medical student at the Iberoamerican University (UNIBE) in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. 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.

Before COVID, we had the liberty to experience life to the fullest, from cliff diving to concerts. Before COVID, families would get together and celebrate, holiday or no-holiday. Before COVID, we had the liberty to go outside with no one pondering the distance between seats or people. Life before the pandemic seemed so simple, so full, so vibrant, so much changed in so little time.

After COVID, we can’t even imagine being that close together or holding the subway pole with our bare hands. We can’t think about traveling without wearing a mask. After COVID, we had to say our final goodbyes to our loved ones through the phone, so many weddings and births were missed, so many people were lowered to the ground without a proper goodbye. After COVID, we now have Sundays without cars, playgrounds without children, and emergency rooms without people due to fear.

After COVID, we were also granted the gift of time, to enjoy family time, to study, to start our own business, to save a little money and pay our debts, for our pets not to be alone all day. With time, this all became the new normal and we had no choice other than to adapt with no looking back. So many of our rituals anchored in togetherness have been disrupted, and that feels like a type of death.

The first few months through the pandemic, the ones like myself, we were lucky enough to be able to stay with our family during lock-down, but others weren’t so lucky. Some of them were studying abroad and weren’t allowed to travel back home, others were scared to go back home and feared the worst – infecting others. All of this and more had a major effect on our mental health, the feelings of anxiety and depression that emerged during the pandemic were just the tip of the iceberg.

The uncertainty and fear about the coronavirus itself; job loss, housing, and food insecurity; juggling working from home while dealing with the kids; grief and a loss of social cohesion as a result of restrictions. Grief, by itself, can be traumatic, to begin with, but when crucial elements like support during the illness and at the funeral, have been all but eliminated, no good thing comes out of it. Some would rely on substance misuse, others would develop sleeping problems, all in all, no matter the age, race, or social class we would define ourselves in, these global major stressors affected us both positively and negatively.

Some say that only time heals, but I miss waking up early, going to the movies, and seeing my friends. I miss going out and visiting new restaurants. I miss not feeling so monotonal in my day-to-day life, feeling like life would go on without me, feeling like a gap has been placed in my timeline, and stressing about the small things at home. I miss thinking, “What if I’m late?”

About the author

Camila Marie Ramos is a third-year medical student at the Iberoamerican University (UNIBE) in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. She serves as an active member of the Standing Committee on Research Exchange (SCORE) of the Organización Dominicana de Estudiantes de Medicina (ODEM). Serves as coordinator of the UNIBE robotic medicine interest group (GIMR), and as an active member of UNIBE’s various interest groups. CEO of MDdiary website and future passionate surgeon with a striking interest in research.

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