In India, doctors have admitted that they are seeing a surge in patients coming with depression , anxiety , insomnia related to the COVID-19 pandemic , even as a World Health Organisation (WHO) survey indicates that the pandemic has now disrupted or halted critical mental health services in 93% of countries worldwide.
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Srinivas Rajkumar T, senior resident, Department of Psychiatry and National Drug De-addiction Treatment Centre, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, said: “We are already seeing a surge of patients coming with depression, anxiety , insomnia. Due to the economic impact, patients may find it hard to access mental health services and any pandemic has a long term impact on mental health. But COVID is peculiar as the very social nature of existence of man is compromised.”
Isolation from previous groups, activities would persist for many, more so for the elderly people who already have restricted social circles, he stated.
“Children will lose vital connection with their peers and may resort to unhealthy modes of communication. To minimise the mental health impact, the vulnerable groups can be made to actively participate in safe social activities like walking /cycling in groups with adequate distance and safety,’’ he observed.
Experts have suggested that people maintain a regular ‘to do’ list and seek help and reach out to friends and family through safer avenues.
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Dr. Rajkumar said, “Minimise exposure to unverified news/Whatsapp and instead focus on reading novels, poems etc is vital’’.
Identifying persons with previous mental illness as a vulnerable category during the pandemic, the Union Health Ministry has reiterated that this section of the population “may face newer challenges during self-isolation or COVID-19 infection and that they would also have the same fears and stress as others which may worsen their previous mental health condition’’.
The Ministry in a three-page note on “Minding our minds during the COVID-19’’, also cautioned that the most common emotion faced by all is fear. “It makes us anxious, panicky and can even possibly make us think, say or do things that we might not consider appropriate under normal circumstances,’’ it said.
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A senior health official said, “The document is aimed at helping the general public understand that knowledge is power and that we should stick to the known advice of hand- hygiene and keeping a physical distance from others. It is being careful about yourself, and also about care of others that matters’’.
The WHO said in its survey, “The pandemic is increasing demand for mental health services. Bereavement, isolation, loss of income and fear are triggering mental health conditions or exacerbating existing ones. Many people may be facing increased levels of alcohol and drug use, insomnia, and anxiety. Meanwhile, COVID-19 itself can lead to neurological and mental complications, such as delirium, agitation, and stroke. People with pre-existing mental, neurological or substance use disorders are also more vulnerable to SARS-CoV-2 infection - they may stand a higher risk of severe outcomes and even death’’.
The survey was conducted from June to August 2020 among 130 countries across the WHO’s six regions. It evaluated how the provision of mental, neurological and substance use services has changed due to COVID-19, the types of services that have been disrupted, and how countries are adapting to overcome these challenges.
Meanwhile, India has reported 903 deaths in the past 24 hours, as per a release issued by the Health Ministry on Monday.
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It said that 82% of new fatalities were reported from 10 States and UTs. Thirty-six per cent of deaths reported on Sunday were from Maharashtra with 326 deaths, followed by Karnataka with 67 deaths.
“India’s active cases have been maintained below the 10-lakh mark for 14 days unabated. Seventy-five per cent of new recovered cases are recorded in 10 States and UTs. Maharashtra alone has contributed more than 15,000 to the new recovered cases, followed by Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh with more than 7,000 cases each,’’ the Ministry added.