Coronavirus hit the world in 2019 and since then professionally and personally most people have been struggling to keep up. Now in 2021 as well, the pandemic is still present and we all need to maintain social distancing and wear face masks, and get vaccinated as soon as we can. Those are some of the things we can do to stay safe from the virus but what about the mental problems that the pandemic has caused? What about staying mentally healthy?
Mental health has not been a topic of discussion generally. People don't decide to talk about mental disorders because they feel a sense of embarrassment or shame. Indian households hardly have an environment where psychological health is included as a topic of discussion or even a matter of concern. Just like swallowing one' s pride, emotional well being or mental health issues and illnesses have been suppressed. However, the pandemic brought a huge change in this aspect.
While people went about their lives earlier by working, socially interacting and suppressing their mental illness before the pandemic, once the lockdown was imposed and people had to stay within the confines of their homes, people were forced to confront what they had kept hidden away since a long time.
How Has The Coronavirus Pandemic Affected Mental Health in India?
The pandemic brought forth the reality of the mental health pandemic that India has been facing since a long time. A lack of knowledge and awareness around mental health has been existing since a long time but the pandemic forced the people of the nation to finally stop and face this reality. Another aspect that everyone has to deal with and hopefully put an end to is stigma around mental health disorders which is clearly visible since the pandemic hit us.
Mental Health Problems Faced By Covid-19 Patients
There are many types of mental disorders which a person can suffer from. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression and anxiety disorders are some of the mental illnesses that are affecting Covid-19 patients. The isolation along with the health problems of the virus has been affecting patients severely even in terms of their emotional health. The number of suicide cases due to risk of Covid-19 hasn't been a small number. Economic inequality can lead to such drastic steps as was indicative by cases similar to the one where a man died by suicide after being quarantined in Madhya Pradesh.
Having good mental health is extremely important while recovering from Covid. Patients need to be surrounded by positive and healthy energy, even if it's through digital platforms.
Mental Health Problems Faced By People Not Affected By Covid-19
While the psychological disorders are evident with Corona positive people, there are thousands of people in India who are going through common mental health issues which is leading to mental disability and harming emotional well being of people. Suppressed issues from the childhood or past, anxiety disorders, dysfunctional family issues, undetermined job security or unemployment are some of the many things which have lead to the rise of mental illness in people.
Mental Health Issues Faced By Front-Line Workers
When the pandemic began and the urgent need of the front-line workers arose, mental health disorders amongst them got ignored as the priority was to save lives. Staying away from their family, working for days without breaks, and the most common fear - what if I contract the infection? We can only imagine how terrifying it must be, and lonely as well. There is stigma around covid-19 as well which makes people cut off from patients and also the front-line workers. There have been reports of eviction, harassment and social isolation of front-line workers due to their exposure to the affected patients and high-risk of getting infected. It is extremely essential to understand that as a society, we have to be supportive and not make matters worse than they already are. We need to respect and be grateful for the work each one of them has put in to help people.
Why Don't People Seek Help?
Seeking mental health care is not easy. Economic inequality, lack of distribution of mental health services and language barriers are some of the main reasons why getting the right help for a mental illness can be a problem for many people. Mental health services aren't available everywhere, and if they are, they're not affordable for everyone. Language barrier is an issue because most of the mental health awareness is spread in English making it difficult to impart the knowledge to the rural areas, where stigma is also higher than in urban cities.
Stigmatization is a major reason for people not reaching out. This can only be reduced and hopefully put to an end, by proper mental health awareness amongst the people of the country. The main psychological disorders that have surfaced due to the pandemic are stress, anxiety, insomnia, anger, fear and denial. Seeking help starts when the denial and fear goes away. That can only happen once the stigma around mental illness ends.
Lack of Knowledge & Self-Recognition of Mental Health Illness
Lack of mental health awareness is another reason for why people are not able to seek help. This knowledge does not include only being aware of the various mental disorders but also being self-aware and coming out of denial. Once you overcome denial and recognize that you're not mentally healthy, you face the problem of confrontation and getting help as well.
Confrontation can simply mean confronting your thoughts or the people who have caused you hurt, and/or confronting your fears and taking action. This can mean that you get out of bed after weeks of depression and start working out to feel better. This can mean that you take out your laptop and actively start looking for jobs. This can mean that you finally decide to confront the family member who has caused you trauma. Suppressed trauma has resurfaced for many people in India which has led to increased anxiety disorders and depressive symptoms. This is where the part of getting help comes in once you recognize that you need it.
Mental Health Care Helpline
iCall is an initiative pioneered by TISS, Mumbai in 2012, which is being funded by India's leading mental health funding body, Mariwala Health Initiative. It's a mode of helpline counselling to remove geographical and economical barriers as it's free as well. You can call on the helpline number - 9152987821 between 8:00 am to 10:00 pm from Monday to Saturday. Professional and trained counsellors are there for you at the other end of the call. No matter what mental health problem you're going through, please gather the strength and call. It's anonymous. If you need help then reach out. You deserve to feel better.
There are many such facilities which you can avail to cope with your mental problems. There are various helpline numbers and organizations which are providing help for mental disorders for people all around India. To find the right help for you please refer to Mental Health Helplines & Services Pan India.
What Can We Do As A Society?
End stigma: The most important thing is to understand that mental health and emotional health are just as important as physical health. Staying mentally healthy is what ensures a healthy society and a country where people can happily live together. If you know someone who is suffering with their mental health then be supportive in the way they need. Don't make them feel weak. Don't make reaching out difficult for them. People suffering from psychological disorders require love and care, and help. Pity or shame is not something we, as a society, should take forward with us anymore. The stigma around mental illness needs to go.
What Can I Do Myself To Feel Mentally Healthy?
If you've recognized and accepted the fact that your mental health needs attention then firstly, we are proud of you. Secondly, if you feel you need professional help, please reach out. If you can't afford to get therapy regularly then get hold of the helpline numbers and vent. It is important to feel the weight of whatever trauma or stress you hold, get off your chest and mind.
Once you've done that, make some lifestyle changes. Me time is a common thing which people say but hardly do. We don't mean just have a day at the spa. We mean including habits which encourage positive mental health.
Some ways you can do so are:
1. Include a form of exerciseBe it hitting the gym once the lockdown is over, practicing yoga at home or skipping a rope 4 or 5 days a week, the mental health benefits of including any form of physical activity can help you feel distracted as well as physically and mentally better. Keep yourself hydrated as well and maybe buy unique bottles like a bottle with a fruit skewer so that you can add fruits and have refreshing, fruity water. Might seem like a very small thing to do but the mental health benefits even from refreshing water are significant.
2. Maintain a journalDiary entries were something that we were taught in school yet very few of us did it. The mental health benefits of writing a journal can be great if you are someone who struggles with an anxiety disorder. Constant fear and stress needs to be let out. If you can't share with a dear one then share it just with your journal. Buy unique diaries which reflect your personality for such journaling because that will help you reflect your thoughts better.
We know that's one word which everyone suggests but if it was easy, you would've already done it. However, including even a 20-minute ritual of meditation or some form of mindful yoga can have mental health benefits like helping you relax your mind. Breathing exercises can help you calm your mind and feel lighter. To make it more appealing, bring out a calming incense burner or a scented candle to have an atmosphere to relax.
4. Drink a soothing beverage
Many people tend to seek relief through intoxication which is neither a solution nor a healthy option. Instead, why not drink something which soothes your nerves? Green tea, flavoured tea like cranberry tea or spearmint tea can have calming effects. If you tend to forget or don't find this exciting, try to have things which would excite you to do it or remind you to do it. For instance, buy 3D mugs which you only use for this beverage. A 3D mug is unique and will automatically stand out in your kitchen which will remind you to have your special drink.
We hope these small inclusions in your life can help you feel better and cope better with things that are bothering you or have affected your mental and emotional well being.
The pandemic has brought forth the mental health problems and common yet unresolved psychological disorders faced by people in India. It is saddening to see this but it is also the time to step up and bring a change. Let's come together as a society where mental health care is just as important as any other health care need and be supportive. The world is crumbling, the last thing we need to do right now is add to the problems. Let's be there for each other and our own mental health by creating mental health awareness and encouraging people to seek help.
We hope you wear your quirky face masks whenever you go out and stay safe and mentally healthy during this pandemic and in the future as well.
Stay safe & keep shopping!