Despite Mental Health Week coming to a close in May it is important that the conversation carries forward, especially in the context of Covid-19. While the rollout of vaccines potentially marks the near-end to this pandemic, the impact it has had on mental health will prove to be long lasting. By sharing experiences, we hope to move towards greater awareness and support for the hardships people have and continue to face.
In this piece Achyutha Surukanti, a Voting Committee Member of CEYC, shares a very personal reflection in regards to her mental health while being sick with Covid-19
I shuffled my way into the math classroom and moved past classmates standing inches apart from each other, heedless of the consequences. I dropped my backpack and pulled out my phone.
“POSITIVE”. Unmistakable in all caps, yet so mind bogglingly incomprehensible.
My dad and brother had tested positive for Covid-19. The hustle, the frivolous worries and chatters, everything outside of my airless bedroom halted.
I would test negative the next day, only to wake up with a sore throat days later. The resulting positive test was less than shocking. This news was met with a clamour of people telling me to “rest” and “slow down”– I felt their distress as they questioned me. In their eyes the positive Covid-19 test result had turned me into a sick helpless girl; a perception that further isolated me from my normal life.
While sick, I woke up maddeningly to the same four walls every day, and saw nothing else. I would join the Google Meet for school and see everyone in their seats, going about their days without acknowledging my absence. The phone calls I made during lunch hours were filled with laughter and chatting and moments that I couldn’t experience, only witness. Furthermore, my social media flooded with more snapshots of everything I was missing– people I knew getting vaccinated, people I knew dying from the same virus that had found its way to my family. I listened and watched as the highs and lows of life passed by without me.
I continued to wake up, every day sicker than the last. Exhaustion crept up on me, as I pretended that nothing was happening. I felt my body giving up on me, as my mind refused to think past the fear that I wasn’t doing enough. I had to keep up with the overwhelming pace of life and school. My falling behind would be a disservice to those that would have to make up for my absence. But work that should’ve taken minutes began to take hours. The stress piled itself on top of my unfinished assignments. I often found myself falling asleep despite my best efforts, only to wake up for another round of three and a half hour online classes with the edges of my textbooks imprinted on my face.
Hundreds of millions of people have contracted Covid-19 since the start of this pandemic. The toll that such numbers have taken on our healthcare systems and mental health is unimaginable. Many have lacked the support they needed to fight this virus, while others helplessly watched their loved ones from the sidelines.
No matter what your role has been over the course of this pandemic, it is undeniable that it has caused a burden in most of our lives. While the physical symptoms and safety measures have been abundantly visible, the invasion into our minds often goes unnoticed and untreated. The world shifts through the lens that Covid-19 casts upon our lives, and this battle is as much a mental one as it is physical.
I was lucky to have such a persistent support system, and the voices of those that care about me managed to break past my refusal to slow down. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case for many, and social support often isn’t enough. As the pandemic highlights the cracks in our systems, we must decide our path forward.
The pandemic and subsequent necessary health measures have led to an increase in symptoms related to stress, anxiety, and fear. While many have been impacted, this change has disproportionately affected certain members of our society. Communities of colour, frontline workers, and young adults are among those experiencing the most pandemic-related mental health challenges.
For youth especially, the closure of schools means that access to professional support is reduced. As leaders and members of our community it is important to advocate for services addressing the consequences that Covid-19 has had on mental health.