- Ian Soh said he has a social responsibility to teach young people to take the coronavirus seriously
- The team produces information about staying healthy and encourages a focus on mental health
It was during the early days of the pandemic that Ian Soh heard Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organisation (WHO), say: “Young people are not invincible to the coronavirus.”
That statement, says 19-year-old Ian, a first-year medical student from Malaysia, made him realise that he had a “social responsibility” to educate young people about the global pandemic.
At first, Ian had a strong desire to work on the front lines, but found himself stuck in a frustrating situation.
“I couldn’t do much because of my lack of experience and knowledge,” he says.
“But I understood the warnings from WHO and that young people were also ‘responsible’ for spreading the virus.”
Ian says that since the beginning of the pandemic, he noticed that the WHO was providing good guidelines, but they were not being translated into foreign languages. Most guidelines were presented only in English.
And there was another issue that bothered Ian. “Young people do not like being told off,” says Ian.
“I wanted to approach the problem by bridging the gap between the WHO and young people, and find creative alternatives to speak to my peers.”
Ian Soh said he felt he had a social responsibility to educate young people about the pandemic. Photo: Chuttersnap
So he founded a movement, #MoreViralThanTheVirus (MVTTV), that has helped to address misinformation and change the attitudes of young people who do not take the virus and precautionary measures seriously.
Now, MVTTV has more than 500 members, most of whom are first-year medical students, from all over the world. For their first initiative, 27 medical students from 27 countries wrote a letter, appealing to the young people of their respective countries in their national language, to wear masks, practise social distancing, and understand the consequences of their actions.
Another important issue that Ian felt needed to be addressed was the impact Covid-19 has had on mental health.
“It’s a huge priority for us,” says Ian. “The toll that the pandemic has taken on people, from school and university closures, to isolation, to increased stress, is severe. And we wanted to address this.”
So MVTTV set up a programme called “Free Calls”. Anyone who has questions about the virus or require mental health support can fill in an online form, and the organisation will arrange a medical school volunteer to get in touch with them.
MVTTV also organised a live webinar in May called LifeStream, which brought together young people from 19 countries to share useful tips on staying healthy during lockdown.
The rapid growth of MVTTV eventually caught the attention of the WHO, and Ian was invited to speak alongside other young leaders at a webinar, to explain how young people can help during the pandemic.
The topics discussed included the stigmatisation of health care workers, the need for a safe working environment, dispelling myths surrounding Covid-19, and the mental health challenges that the pandemic presents.
“Our movement has shown that even in one of the greatest health care crises of all time, we are still able to unite youth globally,” says Ian. “Hopefully, this instils hope during the crisis. As a student myself, I do not have any superpowers. If I can start a movement, so can you.”