Stress, stigma and sleep loss: COVID-19 takes a heavy toll on mental health

As per the data with the Kerala government, after the lockdown started, as many as 30,844 persons were given counselling in the state till Sunday.
Representational Image. (File photo| Biswanath Swain, EPS)
Representational Image. (File photo| Biswanath Swain, EPS)

KOCHI: As Kerala is successfully battling COVID-19 pandemic, on the other front, the state is witnessing another crisis with a large number of people seeking counselling arranged by the government to overcome psychiatric issues. Ernakulam has the highest number of persons who sought counselling for various psycho-social issues including stress, sleep impairment and stigma issues followed by Kozhikode.

As per the data with the Kerala government, after the lockdown started, as many as 30,844 persons were given counselling in the state till Sunday. Pharmacotherapy was initiated for 222 persons. The number of persons who contacted counsellors seeking help to overcome stress, anxiety, depression, sleep impairment, stigma issues (fear of contracting COVID-19) and other psychiatric issues stood at 8,659. Of these 2,436 persons complained of mental stress, 1,930 of anxiety, 98 of depression, 789 of sleep impairment, 1,149 of stigma issues and 214 for other psychiatric issues. As many as 2,043 contacted counsellors for social needs.

At the district level, as many as 2,042 persons in Ernakulam approached the authorities for help to overcome various psychiatric problems.  1,162 people complained about stress during the lockdown and 278 about sleep impairment. In Kozhikode, 1,189 persons approached the authorities seeking psychiatric counselling, of which 833 complained of anxiety, 83 about other psychiatric issues and 34 had problems related to depression.

Psychologist CJ John said that, initially people were afraid of contracting COVID-19. But now they are more worried about taking their life ahead. “In the initial days of lockdown, stigma cases were high. But not many people were worried about the business loss, job loss and income-related issues. Initially, when the lockdown started, people thought that the crisis would end soon. But when lockdown continued and COVID-19 remained uncontrolled, it led to stress, depression and sleep-related issues in many people,” he said.

As far as people in Ernakulam district are concerned, they are open to seeking psychological help, John said. “We cannot interpret that more people are facing psychological issues in Ernakulam. When people in general are averse to approaching a psychologist, in Ernakulam they are more open to counselling. Being the financial hub of the state and having a large business community may be another aspect for the high number of cases in Ernakulam,” he said.

Another psychologist, Prakash Chandra said that several students are facing enormous stress during the lockdown. He suggested that counselling should continue even after the lockdown. “Several students, who face uncertainty about their future as their examinations have been postponed, are facing stress and depression. Similar is children who have their parents living in other countries or states where a high number of COVID-19 cases are being reported. Psychological issues related to COVID-19 will last long and the counselling being provided now should continue for months even after the lockdown,” he said.

De-addiction cases

Following the lockdown, the state witnessed seven suicides due to withdrawal symptoms as liquor shops were closed down. Till now as many 1,605 de-addiction cases have been reported in the state. As many as 238 persons were admitted in various de-addiction centres till now. With 411 cases, the highest number of de-addiction cases were reported in Kozhikode followed by Kollam and Ernakulam with 261 and 198 cases, respectively.

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