By Andrés Muñoz

Ten years ago, people worldwide kept a specific date in mind: December 21st, 2012. This was the end of a cycle in the Mayan Long Count Calendar, and for many, it heralded the so-called “end of the world“. Theories sprung up all over the place, and while December 21st came and went, the expected world-altering events weren’t as heavy as we thought. We went back to our daily lives and kept going.

Strangely, 2022 seems to be taking us closer to the “End Times” than we were a decade ago. These past few years have hit us with crises that most on the planet had never experienced before. A pandemic with its variants, political insurrections, and now the situation in Europe all paint a grim landscape for the immediate future. While these are very large-scale and global events, they also alter our own innate perception of stability and safety.

The optimist in me still tries to find a way to keep my chin up and keep going, though. Let’s recap on the recent past dramas and see how we can look forward to a better future.

COVID-19

It’s fair to say that we’ve read enough articles since 2020 about the pandemic, but let’s glance back. COVID-19 advanced across the globe, killing over 6 million people and driving us all into a state of collective paranoia. Nobody wanted to contract the virus or spread it to their older relatives, so we all went indoors for several months, facing challenges and insecurities alike. The need for mental health professionals was never more critical. I have written about COVID’s effect on my mental health already.  

Then the vaccines came, spurring the debate on whether or whether not we needed them. While misinformation had long been rampant in other areas such as elections, it hit closer to home this time as it was related to our health. Thankfully, the vaccines have reduced the number of hospital admissions and life-threatening cases across all age groups. Now, with the variants taking centre stage, another debate is ongoing about the distribution of booster shots before the rest of the world is vaccinated. It seems almost never ending, but it will.

Politics

2021 was a year of political upheaval. It began with the storming of the US Capitol by a mob of Trump supporters. As most of the rioters were white and the police response was surprisingly restrained, it further highlighted the racial inequality rampant in the country. While there were at least five deaths, news outlets argue that things might have turned out very differently if the mob had been composed of people of another skin colour.

Another US-related event was their troops’ withdrawal from Afghanistan in September, with a rather Saigon-1975-esque taste in their mouths. Americans left tens of millions of dollars in equipment behind, but even worse, they left many Afghans to their fate, people who had dedicated the past 20 years to protect and assist the Americans posted there. One can only wonder what heinous policies the Taliban have implemented since their rise to power.

War In Europe

2022 had barely begun when Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine, much to the entire world’s condemnation. The Russo-Ukrainian War had been brewing for several years now with the Maidan Revolution and the Russian annexation of Crimea

With the advancement of Russian troops into the country, the international community has imposed strict sanctions on Russia, its oligarchs and financial systems, and the world watches as Ukrainians stubbornly defend against the Russian advance. Putin has threatened to start World War III using nuclear weapons if there is foreign interference. Scary stuff.

The Effect Of World Events On Our Mental Health

While these situations might be taking place in faraway regions, some are closer to home. We all process current events differently, and for some of us, even events in a different part of the world can affect our mental health. Dr Sara Lindberg of Verywell Mind recognises the challenges we face when staying informed on global affairs. She invites people to bring more balance to their consumption of information. 

My mind benefitted once I stopped reading the world death toll during the 2020 lockdowns. By shutting off the constant stream of “doomsday” information, I distanced myself from these horrific events and focused on my mental well-being.

However, we can’t be ostriches and bury our heads in the sand either. Taking an active role in our community to challenge inequality in the face of political upheavals is vital. While I might not be able to change the conflict in Ukraine, I can participate in free elections in my country, provide supplies to the needy, and help people expand their professional futures as an educator.

Despite what 2020, 2021, and 2022 have thrown at you, I hope you take care of your mental health.