Meeting the covid challenge

Representational Photo

World Health Organisation declared Covid 19 as the global humanitarian crisis and Public Health emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). With the pandemic the mental health issues have been reported from all corners of the world. Psycho-social issues i.e., extreme levels of stress, anxiety, depression, insomnia, denial, anger and fear,  were reported through numerous researches (Torales et al., 2020)(Ji et al., 2017Mohindra et al., 2020Xiao et al., 2020b). To worsen the condition researches also hint a positive correlation between the pandemic and suicide rates(Xiang et al.,2020)

Social distancing and quarantine fatigue, grief and depression resulting from loss of a loved one, anxiety and panic due to uncertain future and financial turmoil may lead individuals to into an abyss of hopelessness. Suicides rates hiked across the world, with India not immune to this mishappening. (Cullen et al., 2020Coronavirus in India: Suspected Covid-19 patient who committed suicide in UP hospital tests negative – India News2020Anxiety over COVID-19 leads to Phagwara woman’s suicide : The Tribune India2020). Ever since the pandemic started news and media frequently reported case of suicide of healthcare workers, migrant labourers and those in quarantine centres.

The fallout of the pandemic was felt on social, psychological and economic levels throughout the world. Due to its rapid spread many countries imposed restrain on social movement, with the aim of flattening the curve of contamination. Strict lockdown laws, social distancing, restrictions in movement could result in increased screen time elsewhere in India.

In Kashmir Covid-19 the scernario was entirely different from rest of the world. The upsurge of deteriorating mental health in Kashmir is two-pronged in nature.

The pandemic induced nationwide lockdown came at a time when the valley was already experiencing months of residual restrictions from the abrogation of Article 370. The valley was grappling with pre-existing restrictions, but the “communication blackout” or the “snapping of internet services (primarily 4G)” deepened the frustration of people. Preventive measures like social distancing lead not only to increased loneliness and the alienation but the general population had no access to crucial information or entertainment.

Covid-19 has set forth an apparent economic crisis in the spheres of manufacturing, retail, business, travel industry and trade. (Restubog et al.,2020). Unemployment has surged, even in the most stable professions. Along with unemployment, sudden meltdown in the salaried jobs, downsizing, reduction in salaries, challenging work demands, freezing of new recruitments were order of the day. The offshoot of the sudden meltdown of salaried jobs in India was felt by the numerous small-scale businessmen and street side hawkers who were forced to shut down their units.

The already tattered economy of Kashmir further suffered loss of Rs 8,500 crore owing to the Covid lockdown in just initial two months of pandemic . Financial loss has been associated to slumping of mental health, business bankruptcy, unpaid debts and inability to provide basic needs to family.

Furthermore, a disturbing matter is that the economic impact represents one of the main risk factors for suicidal behavior (Conejero et al., 2020;Vandoros et al.,2019). During the pandemic India witnessed highest cases of suicide due to financial downturns (Dsouza et al., 2020).

COVID-19 pandemic brought plethora of new challenges challenges to the human race. Every socio-economic  strata was grappling not only with the spread of a viral disease but social, behavioral and psychological wreckage. The question here is what can be done to curtail the disarray induced by pandemic. Special attention is to be given to the vulnerable sections of the society along with preventive measures.  There is an unmet and immediate need to escalate the mental health services in Kashmir consisted of community participation, awareness programs, and mental health rehabilitation services.

There is an immediate need for the development of mental health services in Kashmir accompanied by community participation, awareness programs, and mental health rehabilitation services. Counseling services have to be available adequately for dealing with the enduring trauma. There is also an urgent need for researchers, clinicians, and policymakers for devising policies and interventions in the context of the prevailing mental health status of the Kashmiri population. We further suggest establishing a well-equipped telepsychiatric service system to deal with the mental health problems. This approach will boost the accessibility and affordability of mental health interventions with timely diagnosis and improve the follow-up for treatment.

Dr Arbaaz Mushtaq is Sports Psychologist and Researcher, SPORTHO, Sparsh Hospital, Bengaluru