‘COVID-19 taking its toll on mental health’

Dr. Roy Abraham Kalliyavayalil   | Photo Credit: Lejukamal

The country and the world at large are faced with a major health crisis following the outbreak of COVID-19. News of deaths, social alienation, fear, and the resultant psychological trauma are indicative of mental health problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and suicide, says Roy Abraham Kallivayalil, Secretary General of World Psychiatric Association (WPA).

Talking to The Hindu, Dr. Kallivayalil says the most common emotion by all was fear that makes people anxious, scared, and do things what society considers abnormal and inappropriate. He says COVID-19 has serious consequences on both physical and mental health of people.

Dr Kallivayalil said the Chief Minister of Kerala has appointed a committee led by a Director General Police to study suicides in children.

Though it was a welcome move, it should have been headed by a mental health professional as it was not primarily a law and order problem, he added.

“It is evident that the pandemic, besides leading to severe morbidity and mortality, has serious emotional, social and economic consequences which could worsen further at a later stage,” says Dr. Kallivayalil.


“Depression, anxiety disorders, stress reactions, suicides, adjustment disorders, alcohol and substance abuse, and acute psychotic disorders are various post-Covid mental problems reported from many affected countries. However, most of these mental disorders are preventable,” he says.

He says the challenges posed by the pandemic are severe as it affects the physical and mental health of people, their finances and social life. Worries about an uncertain future and loss of employment are only some aspects that impact the mental well-being, ultimately leading to an unprecedented post-Covid suicide rate, he says.

Evidence-based methods

He says suicides can be prevented by using evidence-based methods.

“People with mental disorders may be at a higher risk for COVID-19 due to their social disadvantages such as poor nutrition, overcrowding, stigma, poverty or their inability to follow the public health protective advices like hand hygiene, physical distancing, self-isolation etc. Though home quarantine decreases viral transmission, it also increases the risks of excessive alcohol use, family violence, and suicidality,” Dr. Kallivayalil quoted from WPA’s position statement.

Education on the pandemic safety measures should be provided by authorities and reinforced by psychiatrists.

Rights protection

He says human rights of individuals with mental disorders must be protected and appropriate and safe services may be provided for their treatment. The negative impact of the pandemic on government budgets should not be used as an excuse to reduce essential services for people with mental illness during or after the pandemic, he says.

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Printable version | Oct 26, 2020 12:23:17 AM |

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