Health

Why we must keep the anxiety alive

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There is, about us, widespread mistrust, violence, long-buried hatred that has surfaced and bubbled up like yeast, fermenting almost anything it touches.

I look at my neighbours and wonder what they feel about me: Are they hoping to throw me out of the country? Or hoping I will leave of my own accord, going away quietly? The doubts stay with me as I watch students struggle against suppression. Will I have their fight, their resilience? Will I have to prove my Indian-ness? Will I have to scream that my father served in the Indian Army as a mob attacks? Or stand up just a tad earlier than the others to sing the national anthem? Is my identity reduced to my religion?

The threats produce fear and anxiety, the adrenaline upsetting the body clock and preventing sleep, the mind’s deepest worries spiralling out of control to think of the worst. There’s a feeling of being overwhelmed, like nothing will be okay again. Now imagine this going viral, it ‘catching’ people all over the country, much like the sense of injustice has galvanised us into just showing up, if not anything else.

The Lancet recently published a study that indicates the unrest in Hong Kong could be affecting the mental health of adults. “...The prevalence of probable depression (in Hong Kong residents aged 18 years or more) was five times higher during the 2019 social unrest than the general population norm before the 2014 Occupy Central Movement (11% vs 2%); whilst post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms were estimated to be six times higher (rising from around 5% shortly after Occupy Central in March 2015 to almost 32% in Sept-Nov, 2019),” it said.

Prolonged anxiety is a bad thing, psychologists tell us. Yet, it is anxiety that is keeping our collective protests going — to protests, to social media that gives us a voice, to speak out in our families who may not agree that what’s happening is wrong. So let the anxiety disrupt sleep, let the uncertainty of police detaining us, of a lathi charge, of tear gas, remain. In this case, our collective anxiety over our future is a must — so we act, so we don’t forget as we go about our daily chores, so we participate.

Meanwhile, the weather in Delhi is colder than ever before this year. There are fewer flowers in the city — or maybe we’re just not noticing them — and on New Year’s Eve, Delhi was almost sober on the roads — one of the few health gains.

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Printable version | Jan 21, 2020 7:49:27 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/health/why-we-must-keep-the-anxiety-alive/article30556664.ece

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