Reporting the COVID19 consequences on mental health Brussels - Belgium ( March 2020- March 2021)
PhD in Human Sciences // Director of VOW
Suddenly in mid-march 2020 Belgium realized it is starting to get a rapidly increasing number of covid19 cases. Hence, following what most countries around the world did, they went into a strict lockdown, making masks mandatory and closing all public locations.
During the summer, Europe lightened its measure, allowing for people to travel to visit places and loved ones. As well as allowing cafes and restaurants to serve.
However, after the summer a strict lockdown was again implemented; they shut down all cafes and restaurants, shops again, except pharmacies and groceries, until a week before Christmas. From January 2021 till mid-march 2021, reopened schools and universities but the government urged a 10 pm curfew, shops have been open but all cafes and restaurants remain closed. This had a harsh impact on the catering industry, leading to many places going bankrupt and the city having no vibes anymore. Furthermore, Belgium strictly forbad International and cross-border traveling, to and from Belgium; which for a small and central country like Belgium, with an average of 220,000 expats, this is a pretty big deal. Belgium has always been known as the central European country for crossing borders to neighbouring countries. This not only, of course, had its social, economical and political ramifications, but had a devastating effect for families and friends that commute between neighbouring countries to visit each other most weekends or even fly to their EU country. This meant one could no longer visit their families and friends, leaving individuals and families more vulnerable in solitude.
To sum up; no outgoings, no meeting with friends and family, no eating or drinking out, must be at your residence at 10pm and strict mask regulations in open air, if not obedient to any above you get a hefty fine.
On 24 March 2021 the Belgian government announced that the restrictions will be to the first lockdown again. Schools will close again, traveling will be even more restricted and all shops will close again. Back to stage one….
Restrictions have been going on for one year now…and what about the people?
Health care and governments have been recording the number of COVID19 cases and consequences. But no institution has been doing any research on people’s mental health.
Many young people between the ages 15-50 have been suffering with mental issues in this period, say pschologyists. Parents have been having trouble taking care of their children while they are working from home. While some young couples have bonded more due to restrictions, many married couples have faced challenges and separation.
While some enjoy working from home, others have quit their jobs because they couldn’t stand teleworking.
Anne, Tess and Joke all three young, Flemish ladies in their late 20’s, who live alone, have been crying themselves to sleep for the past month. They haven’t visited their parents, they haven’t been able to spend quality time with friends. The winter was harsh so going out for a stroll, for some people, was challenging.
Lucia, Marta and Alberto haven’t been able to visit their Italian families and friends and are worried of their elders, longing for them even more due to the current situation. Leaving a constant concern for their loved ones in their heart; Worried about when and if they might be able to see them again.
Manuel and José, expressed how they normally worked in Belgium and visited their wife and children in the north of Spain every other weekend and now that is impossible and how they are suffering with this.
I asked the single girls and boys who seemed to be suffering with loneliness, well how about dating? Online apps? Interestingly, everyone is tired of screens and no human contact cover stations. Their argument was that even if you go on a date, where would you go? How long can you walk in the cold with a mask on keeping a descent distance, and calling this a first date to get to know someone?
While some people declare that they are coping well and are somehow obliged to adapt and feel lucky they haven’t lost their job, many others have been suffering.
At Voices of the World, we are trying to tell people around the world, that we hear you and we are not documenting the consequences of COVID19 health issues but we are documenting people’s mental issues.
We have posted some interviews online about people sharing their stories to a camera.
 https://www.flandersinvestmentandtrade.com/invest/en/news/new-report-shows-belgium’s-expat-numbers-reach-record-high https://www.rtbf.be/info/dossier/epidemie-de-coronavirus/detail_coronavirus-les-experts-en-sante-mentale-plus-que-reserves-voire-negatifs-sur-le-passeport-vaccinal?id=10717810  All names used are not real names