Health experts recommend counselling in COVID-19 cases

The case of a 23-year-old quarantined person jumping to death from the seventh floor of Safdarjung Hospital building in Delhi on Wednesday has brought into focus the importance of mental health counselling in quarantined patients to reassure them that quarantine does not mean they are being stigmatised.

Mental health experts said the pandemic is creating conditions for anxiety and panic, and people with pre-existing mental health conditions, such as anxiety disorders, depression, OCD, and paranoia in particular, can be severely impacted.

Karnataka’s Health Department started mental health counselling for all those under isolation even before the first positive case was reported from the State.

“Mental health professionals from the district mental health team are following up through telephonic counselling apart from regular follow up by surveillance teams. We have counselled over 3,000 persons so far, and nearly 20 among these have been treated for stress and anxiety,” said Jawaid Akhtar, Additional Chief Secretary (Health and Family Welfare and Medical Education) told The Hindu.

“While quarantine has proved to be effective in controlling epidemics, it is important that the process is sensitive enough to ensure that such people do not suffer mental agony. Due to misconceptions going around about the disease, some people think that they are going to die. Such thoughts may affect their recovery,” the official said.

Pratima Murthy, Professor and Head of the Department of Psychiatry in NIMHANS, said pandemics such as COVID-19 are likely to have mental health impact on practically everyone. “So much information and misinformation, changing knowledge about the transmissibility and future spread is itself a cause of anxiety and fear,” she said.

“People who have had mental health problems may be at greater risk if they are exposed to this barrage of information, or are unable to take simple precautions, or are unable to seek timely treatment when they need do,” she said, warning against constantly being on social media or circulating unverified information.

Anish V. Cherian, Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatric Social Work at NIMHANS, said apart from the threat of a possibility of not getting one’s basic needs met, the pandemic is causing a breakdown of the structures that guide our day. “There are many activities people can no longer do due to the precautionary restrictions,” he said.

Both the doctors said a person can keep himself/herself busy even when in isolation, discover forgotten interests or simply read a book and keep in touch with family and friends online.

Dr. Murthy said: “It is also important not to stigmatise persons who are infected or those with symptoms. One can be kind and considerate even when taking precautions at the same time.”

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Printable version | Oct 19, 2021 9:24:07 AM |

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