Human beings are instinctual go-getters and for a species that creates babies in test tubes and prepares itineraries for space travel, the COVID-19 crisis unlocked multiple arenas for innovation and reorientation.
Unprecedented times, inspired unprecedented unity. The same set of challenges, same expectations, same guidelines and same restrictions for everyone, whether it’s a fruit vendor or an industrialist.If the pan-shop at the corner of the street is closed, so is the premium lounge at the airport.
Humans are social creatures and is their natural instinct to seek connection and inclusion. But the measures taken to diminish the contagion have done exactly the opposite. The comfort of company is no longer available, social interactions are restricted, means of livelihood have suffered setbacks and there is a looming fear of getting attacked by this ‘invisible enemy’. All of these developments have significantly impacted the general mental well-being of people negatively.
Physical distance has infused an urgent need to talk and to be heard.
In India, mental health issues are brushed under the carpet or talked about in whispers. The stigma associated with these issues are real and ugly and the core reason behind addressing the subject with ignorance and prejudice.Consequently, most people choose to stay in denial or tend to delay seeking professional help or prefer staying secretive about it.
Dr Hironya Kumar Goswami – Professor of Psychiatric division and Principal Assam Medical College, Dibrugarh, Assam and Dr Tripti Bawari- Clinical Psychologist, California, USA in a recently conducted webinar on mental health explained how exactly the current scenario has affected the mental well-being of people across the globe.
Dr Goswami pointed out that Covid-19 demanded all to stay home-bound and confined, something they were previously not accustomed to. Also, the loss of a structured life resulted in a sense of apprehension. Concerns relating to the safety of their loved ones and unpredictability related to work and future lead to frustration. In a scenario like this some with strong coping mechanisms sailed through but many others succumbed to anxiety and depression because of low frustration tolerance. Dr Goswami warned that prolonged stress could lead to depression, anxiety attacks and even psychosis. In his opinion, it was advisable to seek professional help if the pattern persisted for 30 days or more.
Dr Tripti Bawari highlighted that in West, although people generally acknowledge mental health with a more open mindset, we in India are better equipped with virtues like living in large family setups which provide the much-needed support system, especially in a crisis like this.
Mental illness is not just a behavioural pattern but a disability, screaming for remedy.
Dr Tripti asserted that to achieve sound and stable mental health during these turbulent times, seeking therapy and counselling was a better idea than going through pressure, work-related issues and financial anxiety all alone. An extremely dangerous trend that she brought to everyone’s attention was taking to Google for ‘self-diagnosis’ of mental health problems.She said that self-assessment of your mental health on such platforms is like “looking up step by step of surgery on Google and dissecting a human body.”
Locked behind doors, inside big, small homes, with individuals and circumstances that could make us or break us, our most vulnerable yet the most resilient sides are in full view for the first time. The pandemic shall not leave the world as we found it, but we can use these times to sharpen our survival skills and evolve fitter, stronger and wiser. It is time to create more awareness and initiate such discussions so that wisdom replaces worry, doubts are cleared, myths are busted, questions are answered and fears are placated.
American poet Maya Angelou put it succinctly when she said, “I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to be reduced by it.”