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The Silent Epidemic: Mental health suffers amidst the COVID Crisis

The Silent Epidemic: Mental health suffers amidst the COVID Crisis

Srishti TIku

Widespread anxiety and paranoia define the current mental health state of a vast majority of individuals globally, owing to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Psychiatrists report that the number of queries received for seeking help have significantly gone up since the onset of the pandemic. The sudden onset of radical lifestyle change has been difficult to adapt to as people struggle to find ways to navigate through the crisis.  

Anxiety and depression are some of the most common mental health symptoms among those affected, their caregivers as well as those who are unaffected. There are multiple factors contributing to this rise in number of cases: increased social isolation due to imposed lockdowns, feelings of loneliness, health anxiety, financial stress etc. are all factors contributing to the rise in mental health issues. There is also, of course, the fear of contracting the infection, uncertainty about how the pandemic will end and the terror of losing loved ones. For those who contract the infection, the challenge is to maintain their composure as they fight the disease as lower stress levels are conducive to a quick recovery. As a matter of fact, leading psychiatrists claim that the relationship between COVID-19 and mental health is “bi-directional”, i.e. such illnesses are not merely caused by the pandemic but an inability to deal with them can lead to spread of Covid-19 infection. Further, certain categories of people, like those who are unemployed or those dealing with psychosocial issues like domestic violence, sexual abuse etc. are more vulnerable than others to mental health stressors.

A significant challenge while dealing with mental health concerns, especially in India, is that more often than not these cases go unreported due to the stigma attached to mental health. People are reluctant to come forward and are sometimes not able to access help even when it is available. Further, for those experiencing certain mental health conditions already, the crisis adds to their challenges and aggravates their condition. For instance, for those in the anxiety spectrum, the uncertainties presented by the current scenario could be terrifying and put them off balance.

It could be stated with certainty that India is under-equipped to handle psychological care to the required extent. This crisis exposes the weaknesses and brings forth the vulnerabilities of the healthcare system in our country. Mental health occupies about 0.05% of the total health care budget in India, with a ₹ 40 crore budgetary allocation to the National Mental Health Programme. According to India’s National Mental Health Survey 2015-16, 10.6% of India’s 1.3 billion populations suffer from mental health disorders. Even though, the number of cases is rising each year, this budget has not been revised and actual money spent on-ground is just around Rs 5 crore.

It could be stated with certainty that India is under-equipped to handle psychological care to the required extent. This crisis exposes the weaknesses and brings forth the vulnerabilities of the healthcare system in our country. Mental health occupies about 0.05% of the total health care budget in India, with a ₹ 40 crore budgetary allocation to the National Mental Health Programme. According to India’s National Mental Health Survey 2015-16, 10.6% of India’s 1.3 billion populations suffer from mental health disorders. Even though, the number of cases is rising each year, this budget has not been revised and actual money spent on-ground is just around Rs 5 crore.

Mental health experts say that it’s possible to mitigate some of these effects if those affected have access to treatment. For that to happen, it is important that people must come forward and care must be made available. The government and organizations must ensure that the public is made aware of the help available. It would also require an expansion of telemedicine to make sure people can get therapy safely while socially distancing.


Few helplines offering counseling services for Covid19 distress are:

  • Ministry of Health & Welfare, India: 08046110007
  • NIMHANS: 08046110007
  • Mumbai-based mental health organization mPOWER:1800-120-820050

Few key suggestions by psychologists that could help in dealing with the crisis better:

  • It is important to stay active during these times, to engage in activities at home and to keep the mind occupied.
  • Regular exercise and meditation practice could help the body stay active and calm the mind
  • Feeling and expressing gratitude and not thinking too far ahead
  • Showing compassion towards self and towards friends and family
  • Staying connected with friends and family

Few other suggestions, offered by Minsitry of Health could be accessed via the link below:

https://www.mohfw.gov.in/pdf/MindingourmindsduringCoronaeditedat.pdf

About The Author

Srishti Tiku

Srishti is a graduate in Behavioral Economic Science from University of Warwick, UK, and is passionate about using her knowledge to decipher sustainability challenges through research and analysis. As Economics attempts to explain the processes that shape lives and livelihoods, Srishti finds it fascinating to learn about emerging patterns while wading her way through issues engulfing people, planet and profit. When she is not at desk, she loves to read and watch movies.

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