Mental Health In COVID-19

Mental Health In COVID-19

"We are not defeated by adversity but by the loss of will to strive. However devastated you may feel, so long as you have the will to fight on, you can surely triumph." — Daisaku Ikeda

2020 has been more than just a year; it's a feeling. There has been an overload of news around us and it has been nothing but overwhelming just absorbing and accepting it.

The COVID-19 pandemic has altered the way we look at life. The sense of uncertainty and helplessness has consumed us beyond control. People have lost jobs, friends, and family members. News channels do not report positive stories anymore— all we now have are accounts of alcohol abuse, domestic violence, unemployment, loss of life due to natural disasters, and challenges and hardships arising out of economic instability and discrimination. It is safe to say that all of this has pushed us towards the next big crisis awaiting us all in India—  mental health. While this is likely to impact all of us as a whole, its consequences will be more severe for the poor and marginalised. The ever increasing number of distress calls on our mental health support helplines unwraps an alarming picture; we are not equipped to deal with the gravity of this situation. BMC-Mpower 1on1, a 24x7 mental health helpline received nearly 45,000 calls in just two months. 52% of the calls calls stemmed from anxiety; 22% from isolation and adjustment; 11% from depression; 5% from sleep-related difficulties and 4% from exacerbation of previous mental health concerns. While the helpline was introduced for Maharashtra, it received calls from across the country. More calls have been received by male callers (69%) as compared to female callers (31%). The helpline is currently running in three shifts.

What do we do?

1. Re-build the quarantine narrative

Mental health is most crucial for those who are or have been tested positive for COVID-19. They are isolated, lonely, and hit the hardest. There is a need to reframe the concept of quarantining and rather using it as an opportunity to transform our patients into powerful voices. Nothing more than a real account of a COVID-19 survivor can reassure the rest of hope and positive times ahead. We need to create spaces for them to be able to connect to the outside world and share their journey to help protect their self-esteem. Introduce radio shows, virtual meet and greet sessions, and social media live episodes. Trend #strength instead of #hate.

2. Extend mental health support to rural areas

Exposure to internet is limited in rural areas. Therefore, therapists, psychologists, and counsellors need to be employed at the community level. Since most colleges and universities are not functional due to the lockdown situation, pyschology students should be encouraged to take this up as a project/assignment in their respective states and should be marked upon it accordingly. This can serve as an excellent opportunity for young students to put their knowledge to practice.

3. Address shortage of healthcare workers

One of the prime reasons why India is not equipped to deal with a pandemic is the shortage of medical professionals. Mental health of over burdened doctors and nurses is often disrupted in trying times like these. Being directly in contact with patients and witnessing loss of life on a daily basis leaves them disturbed and in distress. More workforce needs to be employed in the public healthcare system to address depression and poor mental health condition of healthcare workers.

Oxfam India is running a campaign #RightsOverProfits, demanding for access to a robust healthcare system for everyone in India. Join their initiative by signing this petition:

4. Provide support to domestic violence victims

The series of lockdowns in India have resulted in a radical increase in domestic violence cases. Home is not a safe space for many women. They are trapped in abusive spaces which impacts their mental health to a great deal. It is more prevalent in rural areas and demands immediate attention. Mental health support systems and helplines should be made available across India. Women should be made aware of these provisions and encouraged to report instances of domestic violence; suppressed emotions and fear in women contribute greatly to their deteriorated mental health.

The mental health crisis in India needs to be addressed collectively. It needs to come from everyone. Be a little more kinder than you have been before. Stay away from negative narratives on social media. Spend more time with your loved ones than being alone; not letting the pandemic get to you is the first step to ensuring a healthy mental state. Limit your news time to an hour per day. Eat right. Sleep enough. Take one day at a time. Be grateful for all you have.

It will get better; it always does.


📢Oxfam India is now on Telegram. Click here to join our Telegram channel and stay updated with  latest updates and insights on the social and development issues.

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