CORONA STRESS NUMBING MINDS AMID SHUTDOWN
Fear of contracting virus, isolation, social stigma, rising numbers of death & infection have become big triggers, say experts
‘‘ 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
— 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.
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.
People maintain social distancing while shopping in Delhi on Wednesday.