Mental health experts say they are seeing an increase in cases of anxiety across age groups since the past month. A large part of this they attribute to the negative news surrounding people not only in news media, but also exposure to distress messages of those seeking urgent medical help for their loved ones on different social media platforms.
City-based psychiatrist, Dr Harish Shetty said that there is extreme anger against the establishment, which could lead to depression and violence. Shetty is also seeing anxiety among young children (5 to 15 years), who are having panic attacks and are unable to sleep. He said that the TV coverage of the pandemic is causing this. The elderly, on the other hand, believe that they will die. He said the general sense of panic is hundred times more than that during the first wave. The trauma could pass on to the next generation, with intergenerational sharing of trauma, such as events like the partition. “The effects will be very long term,” he opined.
Psychologist Arti Shroff said that this time around, people feel the virus is closer home, with those in their close circle getting infected. The mental health of those with pre-existing mental illnesses has worsened as had happened last year. Jaini Savla, a psychologist said that health anxiety where people are overly vigilant and tend to magnify small health ailments has increased since the past year, it is more so in the past 20 to 30 days. Savla said that those above 30 years are panicking the most, already being burdened with job insecurity.
She pointed out that children who do not have the best home environment have become quiet. With schools and colleges closed, some have lost friends. Moreover, they see heated exchanges between parents and become emotionally unstable. The pandemic-induced frustration is also making couples behave differently with each other, she said. Many partners do not know how to handle the situation, which leads to quarrels and misunderstandings.
Mental health helplines are seeing a greater number of calls in the past month. Dr Niteen Abhivant of Man Samwad helpline that operates across Maharashtra said that the helpline receives anxious calls relating to COVID-19 and vaccinations. “People are angry with authorities for not being able to get beds or injections. The anger is reflected in their calls,” he said. Another helpline mpower that operates in Mumbai, Kolkata and Bangalore has witnessed double the number of calls since April – mostly from those between 26 and 40 years of age. Dilshad Khurana, head counsellor at mpower said the constant exposure to grief and negativity is making one feel low and sad even if they are not directly affected.