Covid-induced lockdown was lifted in most areas and other measures were eased. However, the thought of a Covid-19 pandemic still affecting mental health continues to be a problem.
Mental health experts said that the uncertainty of the pandemic and the chaos surrounding it continue to increase mental stress. This manifests in rising rates of depression, anxiety anxiety, behavioural changes (health anxiety), nightmares, grief, and other symptoms that can lead to suicidal thoughts or behaviours.
Every year, September 10th is World Suicide Prevention Day. According to the World Health Organisation, suicide is still one of the most common causes of death worldwide. It accounts for 1 in 100 deaths. According to WHO data, there are approximately 40 people who end their lives every hour. This year’s theme is “creating Hope through Action”.
“A lot people have been through economic and financial stress, some have lost their jobs, some are worried about their future and their career, others have experienced loss of loved ones, and some had mental health problems or are currently experiencing medical problems,” Dr Samir Parikh (director, Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences at Fortis Healthcare) .
“Covid has caused a significant rise in mental health issues. “Suicidal thoughts and behavior can be caused by factors like loneliness, grief, depression, financial stress and marital/family discord, substance dependence, hopelessness/ loneliness, and financial stress,” said Dr Sameer Malhotra. He is the Director and Head of the Department of Mental Health and Behaviour Sciences at Max Super Speciality Hospital in Saket.
An international study published in The International Journal of Mental Health Systems last December showed that suicide attempts and suicide deaths have increased by 67.7%.
According to the study done by the Indian Law Society of Pune, there were 369 suicides and attempted suicides reported online. This compares with 220 reports for 2019 which was revealed in a report.
Experts believe that Covid is responsible for mental health problems in children of all ages. Children can experience disturbed sleep-wake cycles and irritability as well as lifestyle and loneliness issues. Many people have committed self-harm.
Adults struggle to find work-life balance. They also experience emotional burnout when trying to coordinate and fulfill responsibilities. Travel restrictions can make it difficult for elderly people to be close to their children. They are unable to communicate with their family and friends due to physical comorbidities.
How can we get out of this situation? When necessary, seek help. Support and provide help for people who are suffering from suicidal thoughts or feelings of despair. Instill hope, optimism, and positivity in them.
Support systems need to be strengthened. People who are at greatest risk should have access to good socio-economic support. Organizations must be supportive of their employees and mental health. Parikh stated that the focus should be on mental health outcomes and lifestyle rather than just one.
He also recommended that timely intervention be made, and that helplines should be established in all languages so that people can reach out to support each other if they need it.
The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment launched a 24-hour, toll-free, mental rehabilitation helpline KIRAN (1800-599-019) in 13 languages in September 2020. There are many other organizations that have established an emotional support number where people can call. These include PeakMind (08047092334) and Narayan Seva Sansthan(NSS), an NGO, Parivartan (7676602602).