Covid-19 impacts mental health

#GS2#health#

  • Covid-19 has inadvertently fast-tracked attention to this mental health time bomb.
  • Mental health includes loneliness and anxiety to concerns over job loss and dwindling income. 
  • Unlike in the case of physical health, there is a denial of and resistance to less than perfect mental health in India. Many Indians have a hard time accepting that those close to them may need professional clinical help
  • The World Health Organisation had earlier warned that the coronavirus crisis and the restrictive measures that many countries use to contain the outbreak could harm people’s mental health and well-being. 
  • To combat this issue, the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro-Science (NIMHANS) had launched a toll-free number for people who may face mental illness due to this situation.

Determinants of mental health and mental disorders: 

  • Individual attributes: the ability to manage one's thoughts, emotions, behaviors, and interactions with others, Social, cultural, economic, political, and environmental factors: national policies, social protection, living standards, working conditions, and community social supports. Poverty and low education levels are the keys amongst these factors. 
  • Specific psychological and personality factors
  • Genetic factors 

COVID-19 and Mental Health

Public health actions, such as social distancing, can make people feel isolated and lonely and can increase stress and anxiety. However, these actions are necessary to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Coping with stress in a healthy way will make you, the people you care about, and your community stronger.

Stress during an infectious disease outbreak can sometimes cause the following:

  • Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones, your financial situation or job, or loss of support services you rely on.
  • Changes in sleep or eating patterns.
  • Difficulty sleeping or concentrating.
  • Worsening of chronic health problems.
  • Worsening of mental health conditions.
  • Increased use of tobacco, and/or alcohol and other substances.

Indian Scenario

  • India has one of the largest populations affected by mental illness. As a result, the WHO has labeled India as the world’s ‘most depressing country’. 
  • Moreover, between 1990 to 2017, one in seven people from India have suffered from mental illness ranging from depression, anxiety to severe conditions such as schizophrenia, according to a study. 
  • It is no exaggeration to suggest that the country is under a mental health epidemic.
  • The first and foremost reason for India to lose its mental health is the lack of awareness and sensitivity about the issue. 
  • There is a big stigma around people suffering from any kind of mental health issue. They are often tagged as ‘lunatics’ by society. This leads to a vicious cycle of shame, suffering, and isolation of the patients.
  • Also, there is a serious shortage of mental healthcare workforce in India. According to WHO, in 2011, there were 0·301 psychiatrists and 0·047 psychologists for every 100,000 patients suffering from a mental health disorder in India.

 

Way forward:

  • The mental health situation in India demands active policy interventions and resource allocation by the government. 
  • To reduce the stigma around mental health, we need measures to train and sensitize the community/society. 
  • A persistent nationwide effort to educate the society about mental diseases is the need of the hour. 
  • We also need steps to connect the patients with each other by forming a peer network, so that they could listen and support each other. 
  • Moreover, people experiencing mental health problems should get the same access to safe and effective care as those with physical health problems.
  • Additionally, mental illness must mandatorily be put under the ambit of life insurance. This will help people to see mental illness with the same lens as they use for physical diseases.
  • With the right care to patients with mental illness, we need mental healthcare intervention to the patients, we need innovative models to deepen the penetration of services and staff.
  • We need a constant stream of funds for educating and creating awareness about mental health and chronic issues around it. 
  • The need of the hour is to provoke masses to learn about mental health through campaigns like Swach Mansikta Abhiyan. This will help them address mental issues in a timely and effective manner and live a stress-free life. The campaign will also encourage people to talk about their mental well-being and reach out to a therapist or psychiatrist, in case they need to do so.
  • Timely intervention, awareness about the issue, availability of professional help and appropriate policies is the only way to improve the situation. It is thus imperative to believe and propagate that people with mental illness deserve to live their lives with dignity and confidence. It requires a collaborative public-private-social partnership to change things considerably.

 

Source: The Economic Times, PIB, CDC, WHO

 

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