PATNA: Ikbal had found himself in a dazed state of weariness. He was irritable and sleep-deprived, days after his return to his native Mushahari in Muzaffarpur post lockdown from Hyderabad where he worked in a bangle factory.
The sleeplessness had only aggravated after the mandatory 14-day quarantine. He would lay awake, fearing and imagining worse for him, his wife and two daughters. He had lost his job that gave him Rs 20,000 per month and free accommodation.
Ditto for Munna (35) of Samastipur. He returned from Chandigarh, losing his job in a flour mill. “I feared my family would starve,” he recalls. Today, Ikbal works at a welding shop and Mandal sells vegetables. Their life is as good as it gets. The good thing that happened was that the two went to doctors who referred them to the state health department where experts counselled them. “I am okay I’ve got some work to do,” says Ikbal, and Mandal appears relaxed.
The two are among 13,930 migrants in Bihar who have been counselled for their mental health between April and July, said state government sources. Manoj Kumar, executive director of Bihar State Health Society, said a team of trained medical officers, health professionals and psychiatrists have been arranged to counsel migrant workers and others. The counselling process also involves ASHA workers.
“Our campaign ‘Umeed’ (Hope) offers counseling by experts under the National Mental Health Program active in hospitals, PHCs and community health centres of Bihar”, he said.
‘Helplessness brought about by job loss affecting mental health’
The campaign started with online orientation of medical officers and health professionals on Psycho-Social Support (PSS) and Stigma and Discrimination (S&D) amid the Covid-19 pandemic. “We have 383 medical officers and health professionals for ensuring proper counselling to migrant labourers and others,” Kumar said. Fear and helplessness brought about by loss of income and jobs are common factors affecting the mental health of most people in general and the migrants in particular.
According to official figures, districts reporting cases of mental stress among the migrants during lockdown are Banka with 1,847 cases followed by 1,744 in Muzaffarpur, 1,539 in Gopalganj and 1,348 in Arawal among others. Araria district reported only 15 such cases while more than 260 migrants were counseled in Patna between April and July 16.