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Opinion

Post-Pandemic, Great Efforts And Infrastructure Will Be Needed To Handle Trauma

The coronavirus lockdown is going to create financial instability which, in turn, may lead to mental instability for people across nations. India will be amongst the worst sufferers.

Post-Pandemic, Great Efforts And Infrastructure Will Be Needed To Handle Trauma
Images are for representational purpose only | Photo by Tribhuvan Tiwari/Outlook
Post-Pandemic, Great Efforts And Infrastructure Will Be Needed To Handle Trauma
outlookindia.com
2020-04-16T19:52:55+05:30

One person loses life to suicide every 40 seconds. Globally, around eight lakh people commit suicide every year. It is the second most leading cause of death among individuals between 15-29 years of age (WHO, 2019). According to the World Health Organization, 7.5 per cent of India’s population of 1.3 billion suffers from some form of mental disorder. But still, India spends only 0.05 per cent of its total health budget on mental health.

We are more concerned about physical rather than mental health. Every human being at one point in his life faces stress, depression and other mental health issues. The uncertainty of Coronavirus has the potential to aggravate existing stress and anxiety, depression, and low morale. People are finding it difficult to cope with mental health issues amid the pandemic.

But mental health is still not an explored area in this world. Why? According to the WHO, the stigma, discrimination and neglect attached to mental illness acts as a hindrance in reaching out to people suffering from mental disorders.

In India, approximately 18 crore people suffer from mental health illnesses. We have only one psychiatrist for every three-lakh people even though there is a need for three. India has a shortage of 18,000 mental health doctors.

A recent survey conducted by the Indian Psychiatry Society shows a rise in mental illness patients by up to 20 per cent. One out of every five Indians suffers from mental illness (ICMR data, January 2020). During the current lockdown, the vulnerable population is more prone to slip into mental illness, and the worst part of it is that these people aren’t even unaware. There is a need to be more vocal and discuss mental illness on a frequent interval and at multiple levels.

We want to provide health for all. But the primary concern is that our investment in health is minimum. A nation is healthy only when its people are healthy.

The coronavirus lockdown is going to create financial instability which, in turn, may lead to mental instability for people across nations. India being a low middle-income country will be amongst the worst sufferers.

Today, due to this lockdown, we are forcing people to stay indoors and work from home, but we need to come out with solutions to handling the tough times after the lockdown.

Coronavirus pandemic will inflict a scar on people's minds that will be difficult to heal if not addressed immediately. It’s likely that many would not even have disclosed their travel history and would have just confined themselves in their homes due to the fear of testing positive for Covid-19. The fear is of getting tagged as COVID patient and harassment by society might linger longer. Unfortunately, in our society, people still think of mental health as a disorder and no one wants to talk about it.

The government can bring a drastic change in the area of mental health by investing more. During the lockdown period, the government should organise counseling sessions for people dealing with anxiety and stress. WHO states, "Mental health and well-being are fundamental to quality of life, enabling people to experience life as meaningful, become creative and active citizens”. This should be the goal of the government post-pandemic.

The government should set up a helpline which deals with mental illness during this pandemic. We all need to do exercises to keep our body and mind fit. Yoga and meditation would help tremendously in mental health fitness. One should not fear and speak about their anxiety and problems they are facing mentally with their family or closed ones.

Post-COVID-19, we need to handle pandemic-induced stress and trauma. This would require more effort and infrastructure than handling COVID-19. We need to change our goals from mental health to mental fitness.

(Mevish P Vaishnav is a policy professional, currently Vice President ( Policy ) at HealthCare Global Enterprises & Vice President -  Government Industry Dialogue – an initiative to bridge the divide between Government and private sector. )

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