While India has finally entered Unlock 1.0, the impact of more than two months of COVID-19 lockdown has created a mental health epidemic too. Since the start of the pandemic-induced lockdown, our fears of contracting covid-19 and losing our jobs in the slumping economy have plagued most of us.
Interestingly, in a study by the global medical journal Lancet it was found that the chances of being physically unwell with covid-19 were quite low. In comparison, however, the number of people with mental illnesses were much higher given how social distancing left most of us with increased anxiety, depression, stress, and other negative feelings.
One of the primary reasons how this coronavirus-induced lockdown impacted our mental health is the pressure it has put on our economy. While we were struggling to adapt to the new normal, the economy was too.
In fact, in a survey conducted by the Indian Psychiatry Society, it was found that within a week of the start of the lockdown, the number of mental illness reported cases in India had substantially risen by 20%.
What exactly is causing this mental health chaos?
Experts say that our country post-pandemic may suffer a massive mental health crisis due to economic meltdown and other factors like unemployment, alcohol abuse, economic hardship, domestic violence, and indebtedness.
A senior consultant psychologist at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, Dr Roma Kumar, shares that: “We are aware that the pandemic took us by surprise and none of us was prepared. It has affected each one of us from infants to old age. Businesses around the world shut down, fears over job security and financial stability have been the major sources of worry and uncertainty. We have gradually begun to become used to living our lives this way.”
Naturally, the looming possibility of unemployment is to blame
A senior psychologist at Indian Spinal Injuries Center hospital, Dr Shanu Srivastava explained how the pandemic has impacted many individuals’ mental health.
“Those who have lost their jobs during the lockdown, they might go through various emotional ups and downs. Their self-confidence and self-esteem will be affected badly. If they don’t have good emotional and social support in their lives they might face very serious and severe mental health crises like depression, anxiety, panic attacks, sleeping disorder and suicidal tendencies etc,” he explains.
The lockdown also induced mental chaos
Although adjusting to the lockdown was challenging, many of us who adapted to the ‘new normal’ are worried about living in the post-lockdown world.
Although initially during the lockdown people felt a heightened fear of entrapment and anxiety, after changing our lifestyle patterns, many of us might not go back to what we used to know.
While painting a picture about the post-lockdown world, Dr Roma stated: “Our workplaces might become more flexible; reducing the hours that we used to spend in the office. Our struggle with public transport and rush hour, might not be the same. With more time to sleep, read, and reflect, some people with pre-existing mental health conditions have been seeing their moods improve which is why the idea of ending lockdown may be disturbing for them.”
What can we do now?
While adapting to this uncertain world, Dr Roma suggests that we all must take it one day at a time.
Highlighting the futility of thinking about what it will be like for the next few months, she shared: “Try to focus on today and tomorrow, as it won’t be so overwhelming. We need to accept that there are things we can’t control. What you can control is how much news you consume and how much time you give to thinking about a post-lockdown life.”
On our concerns revolving around unemployment, Dr Shanu Srivastava stated that we must try meditation and remain hopeful that this shall pass and gradually “there will be no dearth of opportunities”.
(With inputs from IANS)