A Hidden Pandemic: Mental Health and COVID-19

Devices used in diagnosing the coronavirus are inspected in Cheongju, South Korea
Source: Ed Jones/AFP via Getty Images

With COVID-19 and the undeniable feelings of panic and anxiety that come with its presence steadily spreading, one thing is indisputable: this situation is entirely out of our control, and taking a toll on each of us in its own way. The tangle of emotions stemming from staying home, missing friends and classmates, dealing with uncertainty, losing important milestones like graduation, and uprooting pretty much every aspect of our lives is something that we’re all dealing with (especially now that school is suspended for an indefinite period of time). This is an especially emotional time for students that are graduating or moving on in a few weeks. As student transitioning to the USA in July confessed that the situation “is even more difficult when I think about having so little time left with the people I love and not being able to spend it with them.”

People wearing face masks walk near the USNS Mercy after the Navy hospital ship arrived in the Los Angeles area to assist local hospitals dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.
Source: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Coronavirus may be a physical challenge, but the environment of disruption and fear that it creates can be a mental challenge for many of us as well.

As much as we love to groan about waking up at 6 to catch the bus or sitting through a class that feels particularly long on Friday afternoon, school provided two things many of us are now finding ourselves craving: the normalcy of a consistent routine and the comfort of the social interaction we’re accustomed to. The lack of both of those things has seriously disrupted not only our day-to-day lives, but also our mental wellbeing. One SAS 10th grader reported that feeling isolated was the hardest part, noting “the most challenging thing has been not being able to see my friends. I video call them every day, and that helps, but it definitely isn’t the same.”

Members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard prepare to take part in disinfecting the city of Tehran on March 25. 
Source: Majid Saeedi/Getty Images

Coronavirus may be a physical challenge, but the environment of disruption and fear that it creates can be a mental challenge for many of us as well. An advisory written by the World Health Organisation warned that as measures are introduced to combat the spread of the virus, levels of loneliness, depression, harmful alcohol and drug use, and self-harm and suicidal behaviour are also expected to rise.

The tangle of emotions that stems from staying home, missing friends and classmates, dealing with uncertainty, losing important milestones, and uprooting of pretty much every aspect of our lives is something that we’re all dealing with right now.

The seemingly never ending reports of increasing infections and deaths across the world that flood social media and news sites does little to ease our anxiety; as one SAS 11th grader mentioned to me, “At a certain point, I just had to turn off my phone for a few hours to keep my sanity. It can get really overwhelming when you get lost in a spiral of just looking at all these stories about the worst case scenario.” There is growing uncertainty about our future, about the health and safety of our loved ones, and about our ability to live our lives. There is grief for the moments that we’re missing as the semester seems to pass by us with a renewed speed.

A woman suspected of having coronavirus is helped from her home by fire department emergency medical technicians.
Source: Chang W. Lee/The New York Times/Redux

As much as we love to groan about waking up at 6 to catch the bus or sitting through a class that feels particularly long on Friday afternoon, school provides two things many of us are now finding ourselves craving: the normalcy of a consistent routine and the comfort of the social interaction we’re accustomed to.

It’s absolutely natural to feel overwhelmed by all kinds of emotions during this time. That being said, it’s extraordinarily important to support ourselves and each other in this tumultuous time. Talk to your parents and friends about the situation. Consider trying to maintain a (somewhat) normal sleep schedule with all of the extra time we’ve been given. Allow yourself to feel sad, but don’t forget the small ways you can bring joy into your life even while at home. Bake some cookies, watch an episode (or five) of your favorite show, cuddle with your dog, and stay connected with friends through apps like Houseparty and Netflix Party. Most importantly, remember that this too will pass, and when it does, we’ll all appreciate the small moments in life a little bit more. 

A doctor examines Juan Vasquez inside a testing tent at St. Barnabas Hospital in New York on March 20.
Source: Misha Friedman/Getty Images

Author: catherinegmcguire

Catherine (Cat) McGuire is currently a sophomore at SAS, and this is her first year working on the Eye. She gets her obnoxious personality and dedicated love for food and the Yankees from New York City where she was born, then going on to grow up in Hong Kong and eventually moving to Singapore in second grade. She enjoys spending her time watching the Office, traveling the world, debating political issues using tweets as points of reference, and laughing at outdated memes! She’s extremely passionate about Aaron Judge and eating excessive amounts of xiao long bao, truffle fries, mooncakes, and bubble tea. She can be contacted at mcguire43887@sas.edu.sg

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