Mumbai: The sense of isolation brought on by the lockdown continues to haunt Mumbaikars, as is evident from the 45,000 calls made to the civic mental health counselling helpline, Mpower, in the last two months. Fifty-two per cent of the callers reported anxiety, while 11 per cent suffered depression. Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput committing suicide on Sunday is another grim indicator of the rising mental health problems in society. Sixty per cent of the calls received on ‘BMC-Mpower 1on1’ helpline were from Maharashtra and Goa, followed by 37 per cent from the Mumbai Metropolitan Region.
The helpline has a higher number of male callers (69%) compared to female callers (31%), with their overall age ranging from 18-85 years. However, the highest number of callers were from the 26–40 years age group, at 55 per cent. “Fifty-two per cent of the calls were related to anxiety, followed by 22 per cent related to isolation,11 per cent for depression, five per cent for sleep-related difficulties and four per cent were for exacerbation of previous mental health concerns. Another 20 per cent had called the helpline but disconnected before they could speak to a counsellor,” said Mpower Founder and Chairperson Neerja Birla.
Psychiatrist Dr Sagar Mundada said it was high time people spoke of mental illness and shared their feelings with doctors or close ones if they were feeling depressed or anxious. “Majority of the people in the entertainment industry are going through mental health issues and generally, they have a greater tendency to hide it. Many of my patients from the industry have come only when they are severely depressed, so anxious that professional work is becoming impossible or that they have made substance abuse their primary coping mechanism to handle any stress,” he said.
“When one celebrity commits suicide, many youths start thinking it's a glorious thing. But when one celebrity talks about their own mental health issues and how they sought help and overcame these, it inspires the entire fan base to be more in touch with their mental wellness,” Dr Mundada pointed out. Meanwhile, many patients being treated for depression had to undergo problems during the lockdown, as they were unable to get their antidepressant medications on time or were simply denied their medication by chemists without an updated doctor's prescription.
“I found it extremely difficult to get a stock of my medicine despite having a prescription. Most of the medical shops in the area barely had a strip or two, or were out of stock. It was insufficient to last me through the lockdown. Luckily, after a month or so, when the clinic opened, I was able to purchase my medication directly from my doctor,” said a patient. Dr Prakriti Poddar, mental health expert, MD Poddar Foundation, said depression was a hidden disease and the manifestations were as varied as the people it affected. In the entertainment industry, there is a lot of pressure to perform, not only on screen but off screen too by making the right friends, being in the news in the right manner, and being in touch with the right people
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