Being young in the time of Coronavirus

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Thaïmye Joseph, a fifth-year medical student, conducting his studies at Faculté de Médecine et de Pharmacie(FMP/UEH) in Haiti. 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.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc worldwide since its beginning: by the time I’m writing this paper, over 178 million cases has been diagnosed and the death toll is up to 3,5 million. At first, as all efforts and resources were focused on understanding the epidemiology, clinical features, transmission pattern and management of the outbreak, but its impact on mental health has been neglected. Nevertheless, as many studies and reports recently demonstrated it, this plight not only affected socioeconomic and cultural systems but also, had a substantial impact on mental health, particularly, on the psychological well-being of children, adolescents and young adults. This article will present briefly empirical evidence on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on adolescent and youth mental health in developed countries and in low-income countries such as Haiti.

Since the start of the pandemic many countries adopted Covid-19 restrictions which include social distancing, curfews, the closing of non-essential businesses and much more, as part of an effort to curb the chain of transmission. These measures severely hampered the emancipation of the youth (completing education, gaining work experience, social, emotional transitions). While confinement might not have affected some young people, the most vulnerable of them suffered from the disruption of daily routine the stress of uncertainty on the outcome of the pandemic, most disorders included stress, anxiety, depression and self-harm attempts in special-needs groups.

In some countries electricity and internet access are limited, thus the inability to benefit from online education and online interaction contributed to the feeling of loneliness which is a major risk factor of poor mental health. Social activities have been canceled leading to a social disruption; no more meeting with friends, when getting out for a fresh air, they must wear a mask in fear of catching the virus. The psychological and psychiatric effects mentioned here have been studied, in some countries sensitization campaigns has started and specialized structures created in order to face these arising problems.

While many countries are supporting their citizens with health safety resources and stimulus, some low-and-middle-income countries have to face up to two main challenges: vulnerable populations and limited resources to respond to the pandemic. These factors worsened the way, in those countries, mental health is taken in charge. Consequently, the fall out of quarantine on the mental health of the youth of these countries could be dreadful.

Although young people were not the most at risk of major health complications from Covid-19, they were still frightened for their lives and those of their kin in regard to the lack of respect and disbelief of some toward the measures adopted by the authorities. Above all, they find themselves alone in the face of their feelings, living day by day and hoping that the next will be better than the day before.

About the author

Thaïmye Joseph is a fifth-year medical student, conducting his studies at Faculté de Médecine et de Pharmacie(FMP/UEH) in Haiti. She’s a member of Association Haitienne des étudiants en médecine (AHEM) since 2018. She believes in raising awareness about some health issues in order to protect the public. Apart from that, she keeps herself engaged in reading new research, articles and participating in medical seminars. She is dedicated to connecting and collaborating with other organizations and improving the healthcare system as much as she can.

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