- The Covid-19 pandemic has created acute physical and mental health crises in India.
- Mental health care should be addressed at both individual and societal levels to help India cope better in the future.
The Covid-19 pandemic has been a persistent theme since 2020. Yet, the mental health challenges it poses have taken a backseat, given that limited resources are geared for pandemic containment. In fact, the Indian Psychiatry Society reported a 20% increase in mental illness cases since the pandemic, with escalating rates of suicide.
The strict lockdown laws, social and physical distancing, restricted mobility, financial crunches, easy access to rampant misinformation, frequent social media exposure, fear of infection and apprehensions about treatment-costs, and pandemic blues worsened the situation. India’s healthcare system has been dented by superfluous hospital admission and treatment-demands. Now, it’s imperative that mental health be addressed at both the individual and the societal levels.
At the individual level, increased awareness and an empathized pledge of self-care can go a long way for mental well-being. One should look for the “red-flags”- behavioral changes, distorted sleep and eating habits, suicidal instincts, lack of concentration or interest, etc. Self-help strategies such as maintaining a healthy lifestyle, developing hobbies and seeking therapy should be availed.
At societal levels, concrete policy interventions and health insurance should increase access to mental health services. Governmental and non-governmental health institutions should provide infrastructural facilities, cost-effective services, outreach programs, online counseling services, and integrated care services.
The pandemic is unfortunately up for a long haul. But, as a silver lining, the alarming situation has spelt good for the Indian attitude towards mental health. The stigma around mental disorders has reduced and people are more open to therapy and support groups. The “urban” myth of the mental health crisis has been debunked to recognize the afflicted in rural and interiorized areas. People are more aware about the interlinked physiological-psychological comorbidities. Hence, they are cautious about the prevention of severe health complications in the future.
With such changes, hopefully, India would be better prepared for mental health challenges in the years ahead.