The impact of the pandemic on mental health

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Laura Nakatani Kunioka, a third-year medical student at Unicesumar, 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.


Aphoristic philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once said “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger”, however, what if it doesn’t? Due to the pandemic, many of the known conventional ways of help have become unviable due to the impossibility of face-to-face contact, therapy as well as medical search. The passing of loved ones, the self-isolation as well as the break in routine has brought the decline of mental health, resulting in social and medical concern.

The decline in mental health is not a recent issue, as stress and exhaustion which were once personal diagnoses and experiences have now turned into a social phenomenon. However, in the last 2 years, due to the pandemic in question, the cases have grown in an exponential increase, not only due to the fear of the virus, as well as the isolation but also due to a higher exposure to social risk factors that has as its aftermath the amplification of mental health disorders – such as family conflicts, relationship distress and even feelings of invalidation and depression.

Furthermore, as the risk of infection increases, the will to go out as well as exercise has plummeted, leading to the lowering of endorphins – fundamental hormones for our well being. Moreover, With the decrease of trips to the supermarket, non perishable food has become a more viable option, leaving out important nutrients that are fundamental for the functioning of our system and irreplaceable for a well balanced diet.

According to South Korean philosopher Byung Chul Han, in his book “The Burnout Society”, individuals in the current days are conditioned to excel individually. With “hustle culture” at its peak, self-isolation has become a trigger to what Byung Chul Han would call “ the burnout” which is the state of over-exhaustion. That, in the context of the pandemic, would be the self-inflicted pressure, in which we are expected to excel on our own as well as be “the best versions of ourselves”.

In correlation, the pandemic has us working more than ever. Under the disguise of self-improvement, this self-exploitation system in which we are found currently has its citizens living under a false positivity filter, which has as its main point: self-proclaimed false freedom. Also known as psychopolitics, where the individual will willingly self-work to the point of burning out. Slowly rotting their mental state. Creating burned-out individuals, who are more than ever, filled with anxiety, depression, sleep deprivation, and deficit disorders.

Mental disorders are multifaceted and very individual, therefore it is of ultimate importance that we learn how to cope within our own capabilities, through the means of exercise, a balanced diet, more holistic options such as meditation as well as the understanding of our own limitations, in order to seek help and professional treatment when needed.

About the author

Laura Nakatani Kunioka is a third-year medical student at Unicesumar, Brazil. She is an active member of the Orthopedics and Traumatology academic league as well as the Palliative treatment league and Sports medicine league. She has worked as a volunteer for social causes and is also an active member of IFMSA.

Julia Nakatani Kunioka is a second-year dentistry student at UNIPAR, Brazil, and has studied one year of medicine at FAM, Brazil. She is engaged in social discussions as well as mental health campaigns. She has worked volunteer internships in dental clinics as well as Basic Health Units.

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