April 19, 2020
TOPIC: Mental Health Matters, Lockdown 2.0
In this I-CAN Conversation we had Dr. Rajesh Sagar who is a member of Central Mental Health Authority (CMHA) Govt. of India and a Professor of psychiatry at AIIMS, New Delhi, where Priyanka Deo facilitated the discussion around mental health of people during this pandemic and how can they cope up with mental health issues.
Compiled by Twinkle Malik
Amidst of this lockdown, we all tend to pass our time with social media and often get messages and forwards to stay positive, healthy and active during this time which are off course accompanied by a lot of fake messages, rumours and misinformation. In this conversation, Dr. Rajesh discussed the actual challenges faced by people, about their mental well being, as at this time everyone is wondering what will happen next.
In the time of this crisis we really need to understand the concerns of mental health and its importance. When we talk of health, mental health is the most critical and important part. Many people are going through fear, anxiety, frustration, loneliness, boredom and depression and this is mostly because we all are unaware of the fact that what is going to happen to us, with our lives, our families and everything around us. There has been a drastic change in people’s lifestyle. On top of that the news which we all are listening to these days is somewhere affecting people in a very negative way. Many research reports have suggested the fact that abrupt changes in lifestyle, especially of this sort, affects mental health of people drastically. Restlessness, panic attacks, sleeplessness, excessive boredom are some of the consequences that these researches prove to be true. This creates a need to talk about the mental health issues that we all are facing at this difficult time. There are definitely certain methods or strategies that we can follow which will help us to combat them. Right now, mental health problems are not just about creating awareness rather they are about creating and implementing solutions.
There are a lot of things that are unnoticed, like boredom and lack of sleep, most people don’t realise that this is actually a mental health issue which can take a serious toll on their overall health. Whereas, if we talk in terms of psychiatry, we give all these things a term called mental disorder, in their extremes but that’s only like at the tip of the iceberg . There are certain other problems that don’t add up as mental disorders like boredom, frustration, anxiety but these are some common problems or the symptoms. These need to be recognised so that they don’t turn into an actual disorder or any other severe dysfunction.
The fact is that there are different scenarios when we talk about people from rural areas and people from urban areas. There are different sets of challenges all together because the original lifestyle is very different in both areas. We need to have solutions for all the people around us. People from urban areas are mostly aware about mental health and its concern whereas the awareness of the mental health issue still lacks behind in rural areas. There are certain practices, at this time, like following general instructions, washing hands , covering your mouth and using masks, that are common and necessary for all, regardless of the fact that they are from rural or urban regions . But the challenges of people from rural areas are very different from urban areas; like in rural areas people have to travel a certain distance, even to get items of basic necessity. Whereas in urban areas we have all the facilities, door to door deliveries and healthcare institutions closeby. Whereas, most people in rural areas don’t have access to psychiatric help, even as some people are actually facing anxiety, depression or boredom for them, Dr. Rajesh mentioned.
Self help is the best help. It is very important to understand the fact that the way in which we take care of our body, we should also take care of our heart and mind. There are certain ways in which we can improve our mental health on our own. The WHO has also put a pyramid model, to handle any disaster or a pandemic, with emotional wellbeing. According to the model the lowermost base in the pyramid shows the social consideration and security of people, this has a very wide appeal, then a higher stage involves strengthening community bonds and interpersonal relations. The stage above this involves specific therapy which is addressed to the people with high risk and high mental problems and the topmost stage is of clinical surveys which are referred to hospitalisations. If this hierarchy is considered, 80% of people can be managed at community level itself. This means if we bring some changes in our communities and strengthen it more, we can tackle the problem of mental health at a very basic level. The method to be adopted for this of positive thinking, a thing of utmost importance which we often tend to neglect. According to researched facts, people get more affected during stress and difficult times only if they think negatively, that they are going to suffer loss. They need to understand that this too shall pass. Secondly, one should stick to their daily routine or schedule. Our routine has a lot of impact on our mental health. Another important factor is communication, though we all are quarantined in our home that doesn’t mean we have to cut off from our friends and relatives. We can always stay in touch with them through online services, this helps in sharing feelings and makes us and them feel little light and positive. The best example of this is that we all must have experienced celebrating birthdays and occasions over video calls, these things can spice up one’s routine. Then comes some relaxation techniques which involve breathing exercises, it is mostly beneficial if you are facing excess anxiety, mediation and other physical exercises keeps you calm and patient during these times. Also, one must avoid maladaptive methods like smoking or drinking because it only adds to the problem and doesn’t solve it at all. Avoid all kinds of fake news and misinformation. To strike off boredom, one can inculcate new hobbies or polish their existing hobbies one can rediscover themselves and do the things you have been wanting to do when you were in your busy schedules. One can also just get up and dress up to feel energetic and alive. As far as social distancing is concerned, we should rather call it physical distancing because we can always be socially in touch with our people.
When asked about the impact on mental health of senior citizens, Dr. Rajesh added , there is no doubt that senior citizens are one of the most affected because of this, so all they need is some extra attention and extra care. It is the responsibility of their family members and they can play a very important part by engaging them and involving them in everything so that they don’t feel left out and frustrated. Secondly, they should keep track of their health by having proper medications and regular health checkups to monitor them.
Another thing that Dr Rajesh highlighted is that we all should stay inside our homes. However, at times it is difficult for all family members to stay calm when stuck at home as they are exposed to different mood swings and emotions of others in the family, at different times. Because of this, there has been an increase in the cases of domestic violence. One solution to this could be to keep that family member occupied in some activities, so as to keep them busy and create less space in their minds for frustration that leads to anger.
In conclusion, we just have to stay calm and positive and support each other during this time. Keep yourself occupied to avoid frustration. Try to find new energies within you and don’t forget to take all the necessary precautions to save yourself.
Key highlights of conversation:-
- Many people are going through fear, anxiety, frustration, loneliness, boredom and depression and this is mostly because we all are unaware of the fact that what is going to happen to us, with our lives, our families and everything around us.
- A lot of research reports have suggested the fact that abrupt changes in lifestyle, especially of this sort, affects mental health of people drastically. Restlessness, panic attacks, sleeplessness, excessive boredom are some of the consequences that these researches prove to be true.
- The fact is that there are different scenarios when we talk about people from rural areas and people from urban areas. There are different sets of challenges all together because the original lifestyle is very different in both areas.
- 80% of all mental health issues can be managed at the community level itself.
- There has been an increase in the cases of domestic violence.