With the end of many restrictions in many countries, I think the time has come to do some self-reflection on our mental health.
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic stems from the fear of contracting the disease, being socially responsible, distrust in the government, recently becoming unemployed, being apart from family, or being with family – the list can go on. Research and surveys have shown that more students feeling higher levels of distress as opposed to a few months ago as a direct result of the pandemic and the lockdown. The same applies to adults in higher age groups. Messages and calls to local hotlines have also dramatically increased in comparison to the pre-lockdown era. This is not restricted to certain counties, but to every country affected by the pandemic. This is a global problem, another crisis on the long list of consequences that this pandemic has brought about. We have to look beyond the economic dimension of the lockdown, and into the social one, because this is what is here to stay with us. The last 17 weeks have left their mark on individuals more than we think and one dimension of this is the impact of the recent events on our mental health.
The attempts of setting a daily routine during the lockdown, the attempts at making bread, the experimenting with home-workouts, and studying for exams in retrospect seem like an attempt of avoiding the reality that confinement had a tremendous impact on my mental health. My personal experience with anxiety has been long term. With restrictions being eased in my country, I have come to find that the lockdown fostered a very different intensity, one that I was not aware of until now. The end of the lockdown has given us space to think and reflect on the aftermath of what has happened, which we could not have possibly done while being in the heart of the storm. Taking time to reflect on the personal imprint that COVID-19 has had on you is one of the most important first steps once you try to ease into a new reality. A new reality that is heavily founded on uncertainty, something that I know I am personally very uncomfortable with. Circumstances change daily, wherever you are, and sometimes it feels like I can never get a break. This constant vagueness has become a source of distress – something that I have not yet adapted to and something that I do not know when I will be able to familiarise myself with. However, I see this self-check-up on my mental health as only the first step to becoming a better person and to helping myself heal from the tremendous shock that COVID-19 has brought with it.
Having said this, this is not a personal rant. Rather, it is a call to everyone who is coming to slowly realize the impact of the lockdown on their mental health. I am here to say that you are not alone. We need to raise awareness on the colossal impact that this pandemic has brought about to mental health: to children, young adults, people in higher age groups, to health workers, to people who recently became unemployed, to single parents trying to provide to their children – to everyone.