It has been over six months since the first Covid-19 case was registered in the country, and numerous people have come to me with a variety of mental health issues. People across age groups have been affected. From a child stuck indoors to a youth who is anxious about her career to even frustrated homemakers, everyone is struggling to come to terms with the stress and the anxiety in the present circumstances.
Get over the stigma
There is a stigma attached to mental health as Indians do not take issues of the mind seriously. People do not want to come to the clinics for fear that someone might spot them. We need to give importance to mental health issues like severe depression like any other disease. There are tools to treat every mental disorder, and so it is crucial that people seek help.
Children express differently
Nervousness, irritability, anger and lack of concentration are some of the signs most commonly observed among children in these times. These are signs of underlying depression. If the child becomes more demanding and attention-seeking, parents have to take the child’s tantrums seriously. Provide them with a listening ear, validate their feelings, reassure them and encourage group activities.
Women are most vulnerable
Many women have reported burnout and depression as a result of juggling multiple tasks along with daily chores. There are women seeking help for depression for the first time in their lives. Maintaining a daily routine and a balanced diet and following breathing exercises can help get over mental, physical and emotional exhaustion.
I have observed people resorting to tobacco and alcohol misuse and then struggling with withdrawal symptoms of extreme restlessness and irritability when these substances are not available. A young man who had a pre-existing mental health condition went further into his shell when he lost his job during the pandemic. He began to blame himself for not being able to provide for his family. Fortunately, he sought support, else there was no way he would have come out of it. Get counselling. That is the first step towards tackling addiction.
—As told to Pooja Biraia Jaiswal
The author is a psychiatrist at Sir H.N. Reliance Foundation Hospital, Mumbai