The Indian government lifted the restrictions and lockdown in June when the virus was at a peak in other parts of the world. Despite the new COVID-19 cases, the official bodies ensured that the situation is under control and the virus will vanish soon. However, India is only after the US in the worst affected countries list. But what the government was expecting the least was a mental health crisis which now runs side by side with the on-going pandemic.
With more than 4.2 million COVID-19 cases, India is now in the top three countries with the highest daily cases reported. It is probably natural to worry about the pandemic when every other person is contracting the virus. Most people share stress and panic associated with the pandemic but it is not just confined to the health.
Suicide Prevention in India Foundation (SPIF) presented a report back in May saying that 65% of doctors have confirmed an alarming ‘self-harming’ or ‘suicidal’ risk in the patients. 85% of the therapists who were surveyed said that their patients are suffering from the worst fatigue and 75% of people shared that this stress and fatigue are affecting their working capacity and performance.
Another survey from April, conducted by the Indian Psychiatric Society reveals that out of 1,685 total participants, nearly 40% are experiencing some type of mental health crisis including stress, anxiety, panic, and depression, all caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Even after the lockdown was lifted, the coronavirus situation is not getting any better. The anxiety and stress among Indians are at peak and the government, despite being alarmed again and again seem reluctant to pay attention to it.
Even before this pandemic hit India, this country has an exceptionally high rate of suicide which is highest in the Southeast Asian region. Considering how pandemic may be linked to the mental health crisis, medical health experts are worried about how the public would manage. Mental health should be added to the top priorities by the Indian government to relieve all stress-ridden and overburdened Indian citizens which may be a high risk of mental disorders, right now.
India doesn’t have a high priority for mental health, considering the previous responses of the government. A few years ago, the National Mental Health Survey (2016) among 12 Indian states revealed that there are at least 50 terms which are referred for people suffering from mental diseases. These terms are disrespectful, mocking, and derogatory which implies that the public needs awareness regarding mental health problems.
A general concept of mental health diseases in India is that a person who has any of these underlying conditions is not trustworthy, incapable, incompetent, and unfit for anything. Mental health patients are also considered unfit to get married or provided with opportunities that may help to make them feel better. This discriminatory behavior is based on a popular misconception that feelings make a person weak. However, the research suggests that feelings help a person to progress and make good out of something if provided with needed care, attention, and medicines if needed.
This historical rejection and reluctance to mental health issues in India may be partly responsible for increased stress and depression especially when a pandemic is here. Right now, the government should ideally be working on awareness campaigns and facilities to address mental health problems especially related to the on-going pandemic.