Mental health. We’ve all heard of it, we’ve all thought about, but what really is it? Mental health is quite a broad concept to take in, since there’s a whole lot going inside our brains, and thus might be understood and experienced differently by each individual. However, it is important to note its correct definition, which, according to the World Health Organisation, is “a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.” Unlike what most people may think, mental health does not solely refer to the absence of mental disorders. In fact, everyone has mental health. It is a wide spectrum of emotions, feelings and thoughts that make up our psychological well-being. Still, it is possible to distinguish between good and bad mental health, as a person with a positive mental health would generally display more feelings of content, being able to form good relationships with others and having the ability to cope with a workload, while someone with a poorer mental health may struggle with these tasks and would more likely display symptoms of anxiety or depression.
Mental health is an important aspect of our overall health and is arguably just as important as our physical health, because it deeply affects how we are feeling, thinking and how we behave with each other. These in turn impact the choices and decisions we make throughout our lives, and guide us to where we are now. Both our mental and physical health go hand in hand as a reduction in one can affect the other. It is similar to how we feel emotionally tired when our body is sick. Our mental health can also change completely over time, as it is affected by many social, environmental, and biological factors that occur in our lives such as family complications, natural disasters and our brain chemistry just to name a few. It is normal for us to experience emotions of stress, anger and sadness at times. However, if these negative feelings become more severe and persist for long periods of time, problems can arise in our mental health, which can affect how we function daily.
Because of Covid-19, many of these factors have changed abruptly, and so has our mental health. Some of us may have felt more laid-back about not having to travel to school or work for the first few weeks, but over time, as we learned about the permanence of the situation, many of us have since faced difficulties adjusting to these changes. The most apparent effects would have been caused by the restrictions placed upon our freedom to connect with others. Humans are social animals, we need each other’s company and amity to thrive. Being trapped in our homes and unable to meet up with our closest friends and family for this long can make us feel lonely and isolated, as we begin to loathe the present, look back on the past and yearn for the future. We might feel angry and disappointed because long-awaited events had to be cancelled, or even feel worry or paranoia for ourselves and others, as we watch the death toll rise. These restrictions have only extended to businesses being shut down, causing many to lose their jobs during the crisis, and leaving millions of people out of work and in despair. These are just some of the issues that have arisen from this pandemic as many around the world are struggling with their own.
To make matters worse, mental health services in around 93% of countries have been interrupted according to a WHO survey, all while the demand for these services have increased. To cope with the increased levels of stress placed on them, more people have resulted in consuming large amounts of harmful substances as coping mechanisms, such as drugs and alcohol, destroying their mental health in the process.
Having to face these changes without being able to relate them to past events can cause distress among us as we fear for the worst. It is therefore essential that we are always mindful of our own mental health, especially during times like these, and look out for those around us too. It may be vital for us to seek professional help when we need it and to know that no one is alone in the way we may feel. All over 7 billion of us are in this together. Thankfully, humanity is an adaptive species, and with the distribution of the vaccine, this ordeal might be over sooner than we think. As always, if you or someone you know might be struggling with any problems, don’t be afraid to reach out to the school counselors - they are here to help you.
“COVID-19 Disrupting Mental Health Services in Most Countries, WHO Survey.” World Health Organization, World Health Organization, 5 Oct. 2020, www.who.int/news/item/05-10-2020-covid-19-disrupting-mental-health-services-in-most-countries-who-survey.
“Mental Health: Strengthening Our Response.” World Health Organization, World Health Organization, 30 Mar. 2018, www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/mental-health-strengthening-our-response.
Panchal, Nirmita, and Rabah Kamal. “The Implications of COVID-19 for Mental Health and Substance Use.” KFF, 21 Aug. 2020, www.kff.org/coronavirus-covid-19/issue-brief/the-implications-of-covid-19-for-mental-health-and-substance-use/.
This post was edited by Elizabeth Chernyak.