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#YouAreNotAlone, says Deepika Padukone, always vocal about mental wellness, sharing a guide to help with mental health issues due to COVID-19 and lockdown.
As if it wasn’t enough that COVID-19 is a threat to physical health, the uncertainty around it, the lockdowns and self-isolation, are all coming together to create a threat to mental health as well. While it is exacerbating issues like anxiety, depression etc. in people who were already suffering before COVID, it is causing considerable mental strain even to those who were otherwise feeling okay.
In the public sphere, the discussion around the pandemic has focused largely on the impact on physical health, the economic impact, the suffering of the migrant workers, the rise in domestic violence etc. The conversation around mental health has been restricted to certain circles, and has largely gone unnoticed.
Actor Deepika Padukone, who founded The Live Love Laugh Foundation (TLLLF) to create awareness around mental health in India, has taken up the responsibility to bring the conversation around mental health and wellness during covid-19, into the mainstream.
She has launched a mental health wellness guide on Instagram, to offer tips and advice on how to deal with the mental health challenges brought on by extended lockdowns, isolation, lack of access to mental health resources and socialization, the economic hardships etc. The tips include things like, “do what you love,” “hone a skill,” and “connecting with nature.” The full guide can be accessed by clicking here.
“Do not hesitate to seek support when you are feeling overwhelmed. #YouAreNotAlone. Click on my Instagram Wellness Guide for ideas and advice on nurturing your #MentalHealth during this period of uncertainty and beyond,” she wrote while sharing a link to the guide on Twitter.
While not all of these tips may work for everyone, they are good guidelines that many can benefit from, to deal with the mental health issues due to COVID-19.
The most important tip from the guide is the one that directs people to seek the support of a qualified mental health professional, if they are feeling stressed or anxious, without feeling ashamed for doing so. After all, we don’t feel ashamed to go to the doctor when we don’t feel okay physically. So why feel ashamed when it is our mental and emotional health that we need help for?
Fear of infection
Firstly, there is anxiety over the dangers to physical health. No one wants to get infected, and the attendant germ phobia can manifest in many ways, from excessive hand washing to a more extreme fear. A fear of infection itself, and of being stigmatized for being infected, has led many to even die by suicide. For workers on the frontline –doctors, nurses, social workers, volunteers etc, this is a very big stressor.
The economic impact of the coronavirus has resulted in many losing their jobs and incomes. The financial worries are another major driver of anxiety and depression.
Grief of loss, with lack of social support
For those who have lost near and dear ones to COVID-19, there is also grief to deal with. Usually, funerals and associated rituals provide the grieving survivors with the necessary social support to help them recover. But lockdowns and social distancing mean that family members of the deceased must now mourn alone.
Domestic violence increased
Lockdowns have also meant that some people are now forced to live round the clock with their abusers. This is a huge cause of emotional and mental distress.
Exacerbated already present anxieties
For those who were already dealing with anxiety and depression, the current situation just makes everything worse. The sudden announcement of the lockdown would have meant that some of them did not get the chance to stock up on necessary medications, making it even more difficult for them.
Routine loss & ‘caged’ feeling in kids
Children especially, may be suffering more that we realize. While many may be glad that their parents are spending time with them, others may be feeling restless because of all the sudden changes around them. The change in routines, the inability to play with their friends, over exposure to screens –all these take a toll.
Lack of human touch
Being social animals, we simply need human contact. Staying at home is getting to everyone, even introverts! Skin hunger is also a major concern for those living alone.
For some, who have managed to make the best of their current situation, the thought of getting back to ‘normal’ may be a source of anxiety as well.
Author and translator, Pooja Priyamvada, who has been providing psychological first aid to many, has written an insightful piece about the mental health effects of COVID-19 in India, based on her hands-on work, that I encourage everyone to read, here.
All these anxieties manifest differently for different people. Some may have full blown panic attacks. Some may obsessively wash their hands or clean. Some deal with it by focusing on their work, while others report being unable to focus on anything. From sleep disturbances to just feeling more tired than usual, people have reported many ways in which they have been affected.
And however you are feeling, it is okay! We are dealing with a problem for which there is no ‘one good answer.’ All we can do is be kind to ourselves, and identifying and naming what we are feeling right now, is a good first step to finding the solutions that will work for us.
As this news report points out, India is headed for a major mental health crisis. Even before covid-19, the mental health infrastructure in India has been shaky. Now, there is a danger that it will crumble under the pressure.
Which is why there is an urgent need to be prepared, and build up resources. The news report linked above proposes the following:
While we push for such initiatives from central, state and local governments, we must also do what we can to aid the effort. We can start with caring for ourselves and our loved ones. Just a patient ear and a shoulder to cry on, can go a long way in helping someone deal with their stress. As much as we can, let us be kind, and let us be empathetic, because after all, we are all weathering the same storm.
Author’s Note: If you need access to online psychosocial support and mental health services during this pandemic, here is a list of multilingual (covering most official Indian languages) and multistate providers, who are members of the Association of Psychiatric Social Work Professionals (APSPW) and are experienced mental health professionals.
Image source: a still from the film Piku
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