Mental Health during COVID-19
Ever since the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the COVID-19 to be a public health emergency, the importance of mental health has constantly been stressed upon. Due to the implications of new norms of quarantine, isolation or hospitalization, mental health has taken a toll, awfully straining people’s mental well-being. Such overwhelming experiences of mental imbalance have instigated fear and apprehension in the minds of many. This crisis is solely responsible for the stigmatization of patients by the creation of new barriers for social communication.
Even though stress, fear and anxiety seem like normal human responses in uncertain circumstances, their negligence, probably, might as well lead to several consequences such as severe mental instability. As a result, they can be very ruinous to mental tranquillity.
A few signs that indicate early stages of mental illness are as follows:-
● Excessive intake of food and disturbed sleep cycle.
● Feeling emotionally numb, non-reactive attitude.
● Severe mood swings throughout the day.
● Experiencing unexplainable pains, aches etc.
● Inability to perform daily tasks.
A few major reasons for the sudden disruption in societal peace can be classified under the following heads:-
● The likelihood of contracting and succumbing to the wrath of the virus, because of which people abstain from visiting health care facilities for medical treatment.
● Fear of being quarantined and socially excluded due to their association with infected persons.
● Scared by the thought of being terminated from their jobs, due to non-payment of salaries.
● The feeling of separation and powerlessness to protect one's family and close kin. This brings down the morale of the individual.
● Constant ponder over thoughts of helplessness, depression and loneliness due to boredom during periods of isolation.
● Ill-treatment and discrimination against people battling the virus.
● Fear of re-experiencing a similar situation in the future makes them paranoid.
In an examination which was based on 1210 Chinese citizens it was found in the first two weeks after the outbreak conducted by Wang et al, that, women are said to have experienced a higher degree of the psychological impact of the outbreak, such as stress, anxiety, and depression. Analysis of such statistical information only stimulates additional fear in people’s minds.
New psychiatric symptoms in people without previous records of mental illness is most likely to precipitate, further affecting people with pre-existing conditions, impacting negatively on their quality of life.
● With the closure of community services and industries, there has been widespread unemployment and financial loss, generating a negative vibe among individuals.1
● Forceful social isolation in the context of a pandemic is definitely a completely different encounter from that arising in a usual circumstance.2 This was also an angle probed into by the Central Bureau of Investigation in the mysterious death of Bollywood actor, Sushant Singh Rajput. Though home isolation might seem the safest way to stop the spread of viral transmission, it also increases the risks of drug abuse and suicidality.3
● The nationwide lockdown in various countries across the world primarily includes closure of educational institutions, which significantly hampers students' access to resources in schools, ultimately resulting in a topsy-turvy schedule, lacking systematic organization.
● Increased rates of divorce, domestic violence and child abuse have been reported during the course of the pandemic and has caused further distress in parental and matrimonial homes4.
● Strictly condemn the spread of fake news and promote the circulation of authentic information, to obviate unnecessary panic among people.
● Refrain from castigating people who are unable to invest emotionally, instead make an attempt to understand the reason behind such fear and seek help.
● Home quarantine/isolation leads to a decrease in physical activity, hence, it is advisable to exercise regularly and maintain a healthy/balanced diet. These contribute toward improving functional ability, especially among children and senior citizens. (The most vulnerable part of the population).
● Cease from watching/reading movies, books etc. that might cause discomfort, instead of listening to music, engaging in meditation sessions that will provide you with peace of mind.
● Recollecting memories that would forever be cherished and avoidance of dwelling on negative thoughts.
● Penning down feelings, as it will help release stress and will certainly grant/give relief. “Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary.” – Fred Rogers. This is mental health in its simplest form.
● Embrace different personalities.
● Emphasis on radical acceptance.
● The strengthening and empowering of civil society.
● Anti-discrimination campaigns.
● Passing of legislations with the object of expanding mental health care facilities, prescribing stringent punishments for abuse of mentally ill patients, increase access to emergency helpline numbers, ensure the inclusion of chapters highlighting the importance of mental health care in school/college curriculums.
The World Health Organisation stated that the well-being of an individual is encompassed in the realization of their abilities, coping with normal stresses of life, productive work, and contribution to their community.5 Undoubtedly, the epidemic has been a dark chapter in everyone’s life. Victims of mental illness max out and set foot into the phase of self-denial, remain aloof and disconnected. This way they are made to feel like fish out of water. Lately, people have been quoting the importance of mental health, on various social media platforms, but, unfortunately, only a handful of them take cognizance of this condition and are inclined to help for betterment.
When some brave souls gather the courage to open up, they are shunned and castigated, creating in their minds, antipathy towards the society. These vicious actions of their peers are what makes them go postal and resort to extreme steps.
As responsible social beings, it is upon us to comfort them and make them feel safe. “What mental health needs is more sunlight, more candour, and more unashamed conversation.” This quote by Glenn Close can be viewed as the best possible way to conclude, as, it has been able to completely encapsulate the essence of freedom and sincerity, that can be crucial factors in determining a stable social relationship. To sum it all up, let us all play our roles in the society with a sense of responsibility. In the end, a punching bag is all one needs. Be kind. Be merciful. Be refined. Be dutiful.
1.Cyrus Sh Ho, Cornelia To Chee, Roger Cm Ho, January 2020, http://www.annals.edu.sg/pdf/special/COM20043_HoCSH_2.pdf
2.Beany T, Salman D, Vishnubala, MC Gregor AH, Makers A, April 9, 2020, https://blogs.bmj.com/bmj/2020/04/09/the-effects-of-isolation-on-the-physical-and-mental-health-of-older-adults/
3. Dr Ray Abraham Kalliyavayalil, July 22, 2020, www.thehindu.com
4. Lee J, April 14, 2020, https://doi.org/10.1016/S2352-4642(20)30109-7
5. World Health Organisation, March 30, 2018, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
This blog has been authored by Anusha Sushena, who is a 3rd Year B.A., LL.B. (Hons.) student at M.S. Ramaiah College of Law, Bangalore.
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