Real Talk: Mental Health During A Modern Pandemic
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MHSc in Translational Research

Physical distancing mandates, though indispensable, have hampered tangible human contact for months. This pandemic has affected even those with stable neurological makeup, rendering mental health into focus. Our student, Sidhesh, who moved from India to pursue higher-education was caught in the headlights with the sudden, monumental changes that COVID-19 has brought in the world. He spoke to us about the impact that the “new normal” has brought to his life and divulged honestly into coping mechanisms hoping to help us understand that we are in this struggle together.
Sidhesh Kumar Jothilingam, TRP Student, June 2020
This pandemic has completely changed our lives – for better or for worse. While some of us are lucky enough to live our quarantine lives with family and loved ones, many international students like myself live alone. Living alone during the lockdown can affect our mental health significantly; through this blog post, I would like to share how the COVID-19 landscape affected me and how I am dealing with it.
As an introvert, during the initial days of the lockdown, I was extremely confident that I will be able to handle this situation with ease. But things across the country started to get worse, gradually as days passed by; staying indoors for weeks made me unproductive. I started overthinking and anxiety kicked in. To make things worse, I lost a couple of people who meant a lot to me, during the course of this lockdown. This added negatively to my predicament and I was left to deal with loss and grief in the solitude of my apartment.
Fortunately, I was able to recognize my deteriorating mental health and I promptly began reaching out to my close friends. Thanks to UofT’s Health and Wellness Center, I was able to connect with a Graduate Wellness Counsellor virtually and seek help. These sessions helped me a lot and a few key learnings that have positively impacted my pandemic life are:

    • You cannot control all aspects of the things happening around you, but you can control how you react to these things or situations.


    • Reaching out to your close friends and well-wishers when you’re having a personal crisis will help you see things from a different perspective and inherently make you feel better.


    • You are (probably) not the only person experiencing or going through this, especially during these challenging times.


    • Whatever crisis you’re facing right now, it won’t last forever; things will get better.


These four points form the cornerstones of my daily life. Whenever I feel distressed, I fall back on these. It may not seem like much, but reaching out and feeling gratified are mantras for sound mental health.
Apart from these key learnings, I’ve kept myself busy by listening to podcasts and audiobooks, going for physical-distancing compliant long walks, attending classes online, learning creative tools, the list goes on.
Additionally, I’m glad to be a part of the TRP Social Committee, we organize virtual events such as Trivia night, Netflix party, etc. to bring the TRP community closer during these uncertain and challenging times. These social interactions, even though virtual, have been wonderful. Human interaction and keeping in touch with the community have been my source of solace and strength.
I know you might’ve heard this a hundred times and it might sound clichéd, but just try to stay positively optimistic and fervently believe that things will get better. I’ve had enough bad days to tell you with certainty that things will always get better!
Stay safe and take care!
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Sidhesh aspires to become a med-tech entrepreneur by starting a medical devices company after the completion of this program. He hopes to dive deeper into his chosen field and convert pathbreaking solutions into finished market-ready products. His alternate career option inclines towards coming up with innovative ideas and solutions in the healthcare space. 
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We all have a role in our students’ mental wellness. At the TRP, we support open conversations, please do not hesitate to reach out to us if you feeling distressed. Life is complicated and doesn’t always go as planned.
If you are in distress, we can connect you to the help you need. Talk to someone right NOW. 24/7 Emergency Counselling Services:
Good2Talk Student Helpline | 1-866-925-5454
Professional counseling, information, and referrals helpline for mental health, addictions, and students’ well-being.
My SSP for International Students | 1-844-451-9700. Outside of North America, call 001-416-380-6578. Culturally-competent mental health and counseling services in 146 languages for international student use.
For additional information, please visit Health and Wellness offered at the University of Toronto or find more information on our website