Motivational psychologist Martin Vansteinkiste (UGent) sees an improvement in the mental health of the population. “We also saw it last summer, and it was to be expected.” Clinical psychologist Elke Van Hoof (VUB) views advisory committee decisions with a positive feeling. She says the rules are simple and clear and everyone has an equal opportunity to enjoy their liberties.
Vansteenkiste has seen a slight increase in mental health in recent weeks. “It’s important for people to feel connected again and create group moments,” Vansteenkiste says. “Like when they go out or when they come back to the workplace.” Events such as the European Football Championship can contribute to this. “Travel is also a time when we feel more independent and free. This is essential for well-being.”
“A real effort has also been made with the two free PCR tests to give those who have not yet been vaccinated an equal chance of freedom. I think they find a good balance and feel no discrimination. People of lower socioeconomic status were also taken into account,” Van Hoof says. By offering these two free PCR tests.
With festivals that can welcome 75,000 people in August, they are really looking forward to a little more relaxation. Especially for young people. For them, this relaxation is welcome.
“The really good news is that our hungry kids can really enjoy the summer after exams. Finally, after such a long period of extraordinary effort, we got that period to recharge ourselves,” says the clinical psychologist. “From September, we can start again on restart to also get back to work and support the economy.”
Van Hoof sees in her findings that there is a great need for relaxation. But she continues to pay attention to the fact that not everyone reacts to this the same way. “A lot of people will feel like freshly washed jeans. You may not get them right away – so it doesn’t seem like a good idea – and it takes a while to get used to them again. When I look at my own data, I see that unrest in the population is increasing while psychological problems are declining.” Just as it was the case with the exit plan last year just before the summer. This has to do with the fear of the unknown,” concludes Van Hoof.
But the message to be careful remains important and needs to be repeated enough. “For example, not all meetings always have to be in large groups by definition,” Vanstenkisti says. Statistically speaking, not all risks of future outbreaks have disappeared, and the continued success of the vaccination campaign is highly expected. But that can lead to pitfalls, such as insufficient vaccine preparedness.
“It is important that we allow people to make decisions about vaccination at their own pace,” Vansteenkiste says. “It may seem difficult for vaccinated people to understand. But because it is a voluntary decision, you should also have time to see the cat outside the tree.”
Vansteenkiste also monitors Belgian readiness for vaccination and examines what drives people to get vaccinated or not. “If there is mistrust and you would like more information, it is important that people can do it at their own pace. In this regard, we have already completed a very good course in Belgium.”
But when young people are also given a chance to be vaccinated, only vaccine skeptics will be able to place a mortgage on the group’s future immunity. “At this point, it may be troubling to want to speed up in people who are not yet ready for vaccination.”