MYSURU: While the stigma and mental trauma around the pandemic is widespread, Mandya district with over 1,400 active cases has seen three Covid-19-related suicides in two months. Last month, a 55-year-old Covid-19 suspect had committed suicide at the designated hospital. The second case is of a woman who tested positive and ended her life by jumping into a canal in the first week of August. The recent case is of a 57-year-old from Nagamangala who committed suicide inside the ward of a private hospital.
The district also saw a positive patient keeping the authorities on their toes after he tried to commit suicide at the designated hospital recently. He was saved due to timely intervention. Health workers point out that the deaths are due to the stigma and misconceptions around the pandemic, especially since a major chunk of patients are from rural hinterlands who are often targeted by people misinformed about the pandemic.
Speaking to TNIE, Mandya DHO Manchegowda said that they have put up a concerted effort against the mental issues of patients. He said that their team of eight under the district mental health programme as well as a team of four counsellors, specially hired to address the efforts during the pandemic, are in regular touch with the patients as well as their contacts.
“They identify mentally high-risk individuals as well as those with prior mental issues through detailed interviews. Currently they have identified nine individuals including two with prior conditions. The patients are on constant telephonic interaction with the team and receive treatment,” he added. He said that those in private hospitals are also included in this.
Dr Shashank, a psychiatrist from the team, said that their programmes have started to yield results since the calls to the counselling helpline and their contacts have dropped from 25 to about six.He said that many people see it as the symptoms of the pandemic itself and resort to drastic steps. They don’t realise that the suicidal tendencies are due to the mental stress around the misconceptions and stigma, he added.
To tackle the stigma and misconceptions, they have been conducting ground-level interactions at PHCs as well as with the families of the patients and phone-ins on local cable networks, he said.