CORONA STRESS NUMB­ING MINDS AMID SHUT­DOWN

Fear of con­tract­ing virus, iso­la­tion, so­cial stigma, ris­ing num­bers of death & in­fec­tion have be­come big trig­gers, say ex­perts

Mail Today - - Front Page - By Chayyanika Nigam and Ajay Ku­mar in New Delhi

‘‘ Ma­hab­harata was won in 18 days but this war against Coro­n­avirus will take 21 days. Lord Kr­ishna had guided the Pan­davas to vic­tory, the na­tion is to­day be­ing guided by its 1.3 bil­lion cit­i­zens.

‘‘

— NAREN­DRA MODI, PM

ON THE night of March 19, panic gripped Delhi’s Saf­dar­jung Hospi­tal when a per­son sus­pected to have con­tracted COVID19 jumped to death from a sev­enth floor win­dow of one its build­ings.

The 23-year-old stu­dent from Pun­jab was half­way through com­plet­ing for­mal­i­ties for quar­an­tine

In such a pan­demic sit­u­a­tion, it is im­por­tant to look af­ter one's mental health. There needs to be a very fine bal­ance that we need to find be­tween all this abun­dance of in­for­ma­tion that we are get­ting and mak­ing op­ti­mal use of it and tak­ing the nec­es­sary

’ pre­cau­tions

— Ma­herra De­sai, Clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist

ad­mis­sion — soon af­ter land­ing at IGI Air­port from Syd­ney — when he took the ex­treme step.

It took the po­lice longer than usual to con­firm his iden­tity, perhaps be­cause of the con­ta­gious na­ture of the dis­ease.

“He and his mother had flown from Mel­bourne in the same flight. He had com­plained of fever and headache. His sam­ples had been taken and sent for ex­am­i­na­tion,” said a rel­a­tive.

In South Delhi’s Sukhdev Vi­har, a 30-year-old man has started show­ing some wor­ry­ing be­havioural changes af­ter his brother was found to be Coro­n­avirus sus­pect.

He re­mained in­side his room for two days and then sud­denly ex­ited from the fam­ily What­sApp groups and started be­hav­ing in­dif­fer­ently. “When we spoke to him, he said he has put all his mem­bers on his ‘black list’,” said a fam­ily mem­ber.

In neigh­bour­ing Noida, a 60-yearold man has started show­ing sim­i­lar traits af­ter he came to know two weeks ago that his grand­son is stuck in one of the virus-af­fected coun­tries in Europe.

“He wakes up in the mid­dle of the night and screams out his grand­son’s name. We have a tough time mak­ing him un­der­stand that he is safe. Doc­tor sug­gested we should keep him away from the news,” said his son, who works with a real estate firm.

These are not iso­lated cases. Stress has emerged as a new chal­lenge in the time of COVID-19. Key trig­gers in­clude es­ca­lat­ing virus fears, com­plete iso­la­tion, the so-called so­cial stigma and daily news of death & in­fec­tion. Many feel wor­ried about their rel­a­tives stuck abroad where the im­pact has been worse.

Coro­n­avirus cases in In­dia climbed to 606 on Wed­nes­day which in­clude 35 cases from Delhi. One pa­tient has died and hun­dreds are quar­an­tined. A 21- day na­tion­wide lock­down kicked in from Tuesday mid­night.

IN­FOR­MA­TION OUT­BURST

Doc­tors say those al­ready suf­fer­ing from de­pres­sion and anx­i­ety are the worst hit. “Too much out­burst of in­for­ma­tion about COVID-19 is cre­at­ing wide­spread panic. Ev­ery­thing be­ing fed is neg­a­tive that is fur­ther in­creas­ing anx­i­ety. Even if a per­son sneezes or coughs, he thinks that he has Coro­n­avirus symp­toms and he is go­ing to die. Mass hys­te­ria is cre­at­ing panic,” said Dr Ra­jiv Me­hta, Vice Chair­per­son, In­sti­tute of Psy­chi­a­try and Be­havioural Science, Sir Ganga Ram Hospi­tal. “In­fected per­sons or sus­pects think quar­an­tine fa­cil­ity is a jail. This is im­pact­ing their mental health. There is also a fear of so­cial stigma,” he said. There have been cases of sus­pects run­ning away from quar­an­tine fa­cil­i­ties. In­ci­dents like a man be­ing caught on cam­era be­ing beaten up in Ma­ha­rash­tra's Kol­ha­pur for sneez­ing and spit­ting in pub­lic add to the stigma fac­tor. In these cir­cum­stances, doc­tors sug­gest, seek­ing med­i­cal help is ex­tremely im­por­tant.

A FINE BAL­ANCE

“Not just peo­ple with pre-ex­ist­ing mental health is­sues, even gen­eral pub­lic is gripped by the fear of stigma that comes with Coro­n­avirus. At this junc­ture, it is im­por­tant to seek help,” said Dr Deepak Ra­heja, a Delhi-based mental health pro­fes­sional.

Clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist Ma­herra De­sai said that in such a pan­demic sit­u­a­tion, it is im­por­tant look af­ter one's mental health. "There needs to be a very fine bal­ance that we need to find be­tween all this abun­dance of in­for­ma­tion that we are get­ting and mak­ing op­ti­mal use of it and tak­ing the nec­es­sary pre­cau­tions," she said.

Not just peo­ple with pre-ex­ist­ing mental health is­sues, even gen­eral pub­lic is gripped by the fear of stigma that comes with Coro­n­avirus. At this junc­ture, it is im­por­tant

’ to seek help. Dr Deepak Ra­heja, Delhi-based mental health pro­fes­sional ‘ Too much out­burst of in­for­ma­tion is cre­at­ing wide­spread panic. Ev­ery­thing be­ing fed is neg­a­tive that is fur­ther in­creas­ing anx­i­ety. Even if a per­son sneezes or coughs, he thinks that he has Coro­n­avirus symp­toms and he is go­ing to die. In­fected per­sons or sus­pects think quar­an­tine fa­cil­ity is a jail. This is im­pact­ing their mental health. There is also a ’ fear of so­cial stigma.

— Dr Ra­jiv Me­hta, Sir Ganga Ram Hospi­tal

Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi (cen­tre) and his min­is­ters prac­tise so­cial dis­tanc­ing dur­ing a Cabi­net meet­ing at his res­i­dence in New Delhi on Wed­nes­day.

QA­MAR SIBTAIN

Peo­ple main­tain so­cial dis­tanc­ing while shop­ping in Delhi on Wed­nes­day.

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