Stress and fear are the two most immediate responses that are experienced in any stage of discomfort or trauma. Even threats, uncertainty, etc. can cause stress and fear to arise. Besides being infected by the virus, we have additional problems to be handled that come with a package. Employment issues, physically maintaining distance with loved ones, being stranded in foreign countries, and not being able to go home, just the very fact of being stuck at home, etc. are some of the major issues that are faced generally. As important as it is to keep a check on our health and hygiene by maintaining sanitary conditions around us, it is also important to tend to our mental health. There are many people undergoing severe depression, anxiety, and stress during this lockdown period, being stuck with no major distractions.
Being infected by the virus and being at risk of losing life might result in depressive disorders. With the continuous extension of the lockdown, people are subjected to long periods of quarantine and isolation. Many citizens feel a drastic change in their sleep schedule also which causes insomnia, anxiety, frustration, etc.
eLife Magazine published a study recently on 09-Jun-2020 describing in detail how pandemics of this global scale can result in an increase in paranoia which can be triggered by uncertainty about the future. Anxiety levels also see a rise based on the Psychiatry Research in June-2020 and found that healthcare workers and young people have been diagnosed with depression and Anxiety disorder.
Healthcare workers have to be really attentive to their mental health because they are experiencing life and death at a closer aspect, treating patients on a regular basis. This can trigger depression as they see many people die every day or see patients subjected to trauma. The medical profession itself is a stressful process and people are easily capable of quitting their jobs but with the pandemic nurses, doctors and surgeons cannot take the chance. Lack of personal interaction and communication has also taken a toll on extroverted people who love collaborating with different people to discuss solutions. Personal contact between loved ones is considered very intimate and provides a form of safety and trust. Loneliness and anxiety can occur as a result of long-term deprivation.
The mental health crisis in India is also booming. Cases of mental health deprivation have been shown to have a recorded increase of 20% ever since the lockdown began. And the increased downfall of the economy is also a contributing factor. There are also reported cases of domestic violence issues across the country like rape, mob lynching, killings, etc. These cases will add extra pressure on the people.
In a normal scenario, people usually approach mental health experts like psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors, and therapists. One-on-one conversations are essential to understand what the patients are going through and give solutions to them. But since social distancing is the essence of the situation this has become a great problem. So medical experts are adopting other means of communication like conducting meetings via video calls and phone calls.
The areas which act as COVID-19 hotspots are found to have more stress and anxiety in the area because of the comparatively higher risk involved in contracting the disease.
People staying with their families also tend to face issues. Problems within the family members, short disputes, and on-going misunderstandings may also be a root cause for these problems to prevail on a daily basis.
Though there are ways to help people out by following social distancing, we need to find out how many people actually need help. One of the major ways of finding out is to use social media. Social media is being utilized to spread all types of messages and news – the good and the bad. People are being subjected to cyberbullying and sexual abuse via online forums against women and also moderately against men. Instead, we can put social media to good use and try to find out those in need of dire help.
Conducting online forums and surveys – Skilled medical experts and psychiatrists can collaborate and devise a survey or open a discussion on an online forum and collect data from which they can detect and predict the number of mentally affected people. Friends can also help out by connecting their friends with whom they fid to have a mental health issue with counselors and psychiatrists in order for them to get professional help. Despite wanting to help out a friend, we can’t always give the exact help they need but we can help them reach it.
A study was published on medRxiv in May was done in the above manner. They made use of an anonymous form generated by Google and focussed on categories like anxiety, depressive symptoms, pornographic addiction symptoms, food and sleep schedule changes, relationship related issues, and empathy to get an idea in hindsight. The picture they got from the data portrayed the mental statuses of people who were categorized by age, sex, and educated individuals. The analytical report of this survey states that people showed more depressive symptoms and lesser anxiety levels. Pornographic addiction was higher in depressed candidates and the main root cause for these was backed up by a drastic change in food and sleep schedules.
But there are some people who are not able to get help even in this scenario. Despite having a large social network via which news spreads faster than fire, there are people without access to such resources. Many are victims of domestic violence, sadism, verbal and physical abuse whose mental health keeps deteriorating by the minute. All these people are difficult to track and imposed lockdown measures will add on to their never suppressive symptoms. So, people can be assigned to each area or locality, equipped with the proper protective gear, and can be sent to check in houses and conduct surveys.
Mental health is not a simple matter, it can rise to become a dangerous threat to life if not handled properly. Kindly try to check up on people you know, loved ones, and friends and try to get them the help they need. You can never know how much you’ve helped someone. If you are a personal victim and feel the need to approach someone, also having the additional privilege of possessing a social media account, please reach out to your loved ones first. If you feel you need further help, there are professional medical experts who have special websites and helpline numbers that can provide you with contacts. Kindly help yourself and try to help others too. Help is always available, it’s up to us to choose to take it.