Post COVID-19 recovery, some struggle with mental health issues

For some patients, recovering from COVID-19 has led to a slew of mental health issues ranging from sleeplessness to anxiety and panic attacks.

The District Mental Health Programme has been fielding calls from patients in the post-COVID phase, after they have tested negative. In one instance, a son called the helpline on behalf of his father who was experiencing behavioural issues including heightened anger and memory loss after testing negative for the virus. In another case, counselling was provided to a nine-year-old who, after testing positive for the virus, relived some of the trauma of a heart surgery the child had undergone two years ago, leading to panic attacks.

Dr. Soumya Raj, who is the nodal officer for the District Mental Health Programme, said that some people, after their recovery, have also sought help in dealing with habits like nicotine or tobacco use. “It could be out of an urge to kick bad habits after a bout of COVID,” she said. A smoker who had fought off the virus, approached a post-COVID clinic with breathlessness, but his vitals were stable, she says. He had been experiencing panic attacks out of fear that a relapsed smoking habit after quitting, might have worsened his condition.

People who require mental health support are referred to counsellors at the mental health programme from post-COVID clinics that are functioning at PHCs. If reassurance does not suffice, they are referred to a psychiatrist and consultation is provided via telemedicine. If their troubles have not subsided, a visit to the General Hospital is mandated. When people began to report sleep deprivation while recovering from the infection, the State decided to actively reach out to those who have tested negative from November onwards, said Dr. Kiran P.S., nodal officer for the State Mental Health Programme. The counsellors now call people who were infected around 20 days after they have tested positive to check for psychological problems, he says. Sleep disturbance, even without anxiety, is seen as a common problem, Dr. Kiran says. Depression and anxiety are also reported.

Dr. Soumya says that most problems have subsided with reassurance or small doses of medication. People in the 40 to 60 age group have reported the most issues, she says. “People in this age group have also dealt with psychosocial problems including financial ones on being hospitalised.” Stress associated with testing positive for the virus could be causing the sleep disturbances, and in most cases, such issues do not develop into a disorder, she added.

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Printable version | Mar 7, 2021 12:08:57 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/post-covid-19-recovery-some-struggle-with-mental-health-issues/article33562302.ece

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