BHOPAL: The Covid-19 pandemic has led to 40%-60% rise in mental disorder cases. They are in the grip of anxiety, depression, sleeplessness, psychosis, substance abuse and suicidal tendencies. Low awareness levels about mental diseases and the stigma attached to consulting psychiatrists have worsened the situation, say experts.
Consultant psychiatrist, Bansal Hospital, Bhopal, Satyakant Trivedi says that the Covid pandemic and its socio-economic effects have created a fertile ground for growth in mental illnesses. He estimates that mental illnesses have grown by 40%-60% due to the pandemic.
The factors that have contributed to this rise include fear of catching the infection, economic distress due to job losses and a feeling of uncertainty. The lockdowns have made some people addicted to mobiles. Then, there are those who have lost their near and dear ones. ìA young boy who came to me had lost both his parents and his grandmother to Covid within a space of 15 days,î he says. Children have become irritable because they have not been going to schools for the past one and a half years.
Rope in celebrities
"The governmentís health establishment needs to make mental health a priority. We urgently need a Mental Health Policy and a Suicide Prevention Policy. Awareness campaigns should be launched, roping in celebrities and people should be screened for mental issues and content on mental health should be included in school syllabuses." -Consultant psychiatrist, Bansal Hospital, Bhopal, Satyakant Trivedi
Atmosphere of fear
"Covid has definitely worsened the mental health situation. Itís leading to phobia, anxiety, depression, self-harm, substance abuse and even psychosis. An overall atmosphere of fear makes healthy people more susceptible to mental problems and exacerbates the condition of people already suffering from mental disorders. Although people are now more aware of mental diseases, our country is short on mental health professionals and infrastructure." -Dr RN Sahu, former head, Department of Psychiatry, Gandhi Medical College
Tip of the iceberg
The pandemic has led to a large number of mentally healthy persons developing psychiatric disorders. Of the around 5,000 patients Iíve seen since March 2020 up to June 2021, at least 1,000 were new cases. Among them is a couple in their 60s whose 23-year-old MBA son succumbed to Covid and a bank cashier in her early-20s whose son was consumed by the disease. All three of them have slipped into severe depression.† Presuming that 2%-3% of the Indians were affected by Covid, it can safely be assumed that at least 10 times their number has been emotionally affected." -Dr Ruma Bhattacharya, psychiatrist and council member, Indian Psychiatric Society
Free support helpline
"We recently launched a free psycho-social support helpline (10am-6pm) from Monday to Saturday. Besides, the group has organised an awareness drive regarding the helpline in the 10 urban slums of Bhopal. Under the drive, information regarding mental health is shared, posters of the helpline numbers have been stuck in the communities and announcements are also made. Volunteers are promoting call testing with the community members." -Mahima, city mobiliser, Indo-Global Social Service Society