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Martes 3 de Octubre de 2023

Mental health after COVID

By María Teresa del Río, Psychology Researcher, Institute for Research and Postgraduate Studies, FAMEDSA

Recalling the recent history of humanity, and the fact that October is World Mental Health Day, it is necessary to bear in mind that one of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic has been its enormous cost to people's mental health. Not only because of the tension of the pandemic itself but also because of the consequences that have appeared after the loss of a loved one, the suffering of the sick family member, and the long period of isolation.

A relevant fact is that the rates of disorders such as depression, stress, and anxiety increased by 25% during the first year of the pandemic, adding to the almost 1000 million people who already suffered from a mental disorder (WHO, 2022).

Bertolote (2008) states that mental health, more than a scientific discipline, is a political and ideological movement that involves various sectors of society interested in promoting the human rights of people living with mental disorders and the quality of their treatment.

According to the WHO, having good mental health goes beyond that. It is a condition, subject to the fluctuations of biological and social factors. It is a state of mental well-being that allows people to cope with life's stressful moments, develop all their skills, be able to learn and work properly and contribute to the improvement of their community. It is a fundamental part of health and well-being that underpins our individual and collective capacities to make decisions, build relationships, and shape the world we live in.

Mental health is also a fundamental human right. And an essential element for personal, community, and socio-economic development. Mental health should be thought of as the combination of many factors present in our lives, day after day.

The current definition of Mental Health states that people should perform vital tasks to be in a state of well-being. This well-being is understood as a condition of relative stability to shape the world we live in. We should be able to cope with life's stressful moments, develop all our skills, be able to learn and work properly, contribute to the improvement of our communities, have individual and collective capacities to make decisions, and establish satisfying relationships.

Reading the WHO statements, it seems clear that obtaining the desired balance and obtaining well-being seems an arduous task, even impossible for many. According to WHO research, mental health is a bio-psycho-social construct. Events in our lives that exceed our tolerance to stress, either by their nature, chronicity, or duration, affect cognitive functions and affective balance, leaving us in a position of fragility.

There is no definitive answer to the attacks on mental health. The great efforts made have improved many lives, but much more remains to be done. This requires enormous financial resources, the expertise of professionals, and the dedication of many people and organizations.