The second wave of Covid-19 has turned more lethal, infecting more people and taking more lives. Besides causing financial and physical problems, it has also affected people mentally, creating panic in their minds. The uncertainty about their present and future, coupled with government mandates to stay at home, is all exacerbating mental illness. The feeling of being cooped up at home, distant from their loved ones, devoid of social support and fear about new variants is increasing mental illness, according to mental health experts.
"The current situations are affecting the mental well-being on account of the uncertainty of the present and the future, the impact on the physical health of the self and loved ones, impact on work and productivity, and as a result, an effect on the relations that surround them," Dr Samir Parikh, Director, Department of Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences, Fortis Healthcare, told IANS.
While the current scenario is affecting all individuals, regardless of their age, gender or other demographics, more adolescents and adults have reached out seeking help for mental health issues.
"Since the beginning of April, there has been a rise in tele-psychiatric consultations by at least 20 per cent. While the face to face consultations have plateaued, teleconsultations requests for seeking help have steadily increased," Dr Satish Kumar, Consultant Clinical Psychologist, Manipal Hospitals, Bengaluru, told IANS.
The most prominent problem reported by people is anxiety and depression. Teens are more stressed out about their future plans, resulting in an existential crisis while the adults are overwhelmed by the fear of survival, financial insecurity and job security.
These fears are coupled by "Covid anxiety/pandemic anxiety. People fear that they are going to die, increasing their death anxiety issues", Kumar said.
"People are also worried about being spreaders and causing harm to their loved ones. Even those people who never had mental health issues, even in their family history, are now reaching out for medical support as they are facing a lot of emotional stress," Kumar.
"Many experience guilt around not being able to adequately support those around them. These experiences can impact people's sense of self, their confidence and belief in the worldviews they hold as well as their positivity, optimism and resilience to cope with situations," Parikh said.
"Anyone else feeling survivors guilt? I certainly am. Each death I hear of is like a hard blow," Bollywood actress Pooja Bhatt shared in a tweet last week.
To cope with the current situation, Parikh suggested that one must: focus on the here and now; try and look at the things that you can control; attempt to maintain a routine and follow a balanced schedule; integrate relaxing and recreational activities to help unwind and relax; not engage in excessive information overload to not feel overwhelmed; focus on the small good things that will allow you to maintain positivity in your thoughts; speak to people around and maintain social connectedness; and ensure to follow all safety protocols and maintain Covid appropriate behaviour.
While the general public has the luxury to take a break from the situation, frontline workers including policemen, healthcare workers and journalists suffer from what is called occupational hazard.
The frontline workers are more likely to get demotivated when they are taking the effort and yet people do not follow appropriate Covid behaviour.
"The only way to cope with the situation is by having an optimistic outlook and repeating the mantra, 'this too shall pass'. Policemen, doctors, nurses and journalists should practice positive self-talk every day, and also engage in de-stressing activities, at least 10 mins a day by watching comedy or by talking to their loved ones or by indulging in their favourite activity. A positive end to the day is the only way to cope with the situation," Kumar noted.
The lockdown-related stress, in 2020, reportedly caused over 300 cases of suicides from March 19 till May 2. As a result, in September 2020, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment introduced a 24X7 toll-free mental rehabilitation helpline 'KIRAN' (1800-599-0019) in 13 languages.
Several others have announced a Covid emotional support helpline number, where people can reach out. This includes PeakMind (08047092334), Narayan Seva Sansthan (NSS) and NGO, Parivartan (07676602602).
India on Tuesday recorded 3,23,144 coronavirus cases and 2,771 deaths.