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Coronavirus lockdown toll on mental health, SOS calls shoot up

Much of these mental health issues are being linked to the prevailing economic uncertainties.

Published: 13th April 2020 08:26 AM  |   Last Updated: 13th April 2020 04:05 PM   |  A+A-

Anxiety, Depression, Stress

Representational image

Express News Service

BHUBANESWAR: Anxiety disorders and sleeplessness are emerging as the toxic effects of COVID-19 lockdown in the State as, according to mental health experts, the number of SOS calls for psychological help have shot up considerably. While there is a significant increase in the number of relapses, fresh cases of stress and anxiety disorders are also surfacing.

Much of these mental health issues are being linked to the prevailing economic uncertainties. The fear of crumbling businesses and joblessness is adding to the stress of confinements, said experts.In some cases, anxiety is causing secondary health issues. For instance, a 58-year-old businessman - who chose to remain anonymous - sought online counselling help from Manam Wellness Centre after he developed nausea, shivering of limbs and panic attacks.

ALSO READ: Lockdown blues? It is perfectly okay to seek help, say mental health experts

“His business of non-essential goods has come to a standstill. Moreover, he is yet to collect payments from his clients for earlier deals. This made him anxious,” said Anuradha Mohapatra of Manam. Similarly, a 45-year-old IT professional from City’s Patia area complained of panic attacks to counsellors after his service was terminated by the company as part of lay-offs.

The situation, experts say, has turned grim for persons with pre-existing mental health conditions. “I have around 5,000 patients across the State. Many of them were stable due to the ongoing treatment but in the present scenario, due to lack of medicines and excessive stress, the cases are relapsing,” said Dr Pranab Mohapatra, Head of the Department Psychiatry in KIIMS.

Some of these patients are also finding it difficult to accept the change - from physical to tele-counselling. There is growing fear that the lockdown will have a long-term impact on the mental health of the anxious lot. “In most cases, the anxiety disorder is showing signs and symptoms in the first week. But its consequences will also reflect after two weeks or later when the lockdown ends. After a month, they may face post-traumatic stress disorder,” said Dr Surjeet Sahoo, Head of the Department, Psychiatry at SUM Hospital. Though there aren’t any concrete figures available to point the exact rise in mental health cases, most counsellors and clinical psychiatrists in the City confirm a spike in cases.

The five counsellors at Manam attend to at least seven to 10 calls each of people seeking psychological help daily, while Dr Sahoo has witnessed 70 to 80 per cent rise in distress calls of new cases.
With such a grim scenario emerging, a team of 30 psychiatrists from Cuttack and Bhubaneswar, members of the Odisha Branch of Indian Psychiatric Society, have switched to online counselling. They have circulated their e-mail addresses and WhatsApp numbers and specific time slots for attending to distress calls free of cost.Not just that, the experts are trying to address the panic triggered by the pandemic. The need is to promote physical distancing and not social-distancing, they say.

ALSO READ: Delayed appraisals, fear of job loss causing anxiety, mental uneasiness for employees

Negative adaptation of isolation may lead to irritability, low mood, anxiety, anger, emotional exhaustion and depression. People must stay connected over phone calls, messengers or through other virtual avenues.
However, what has come as a blessing in disguise is the withdrawal from addictive substances.

“Persons who were dependent on alcohol or other forms of substance abuse have no access to it. Some have absolutely stopped using it,” said Samrat Kar, founder of Cuttack-based The Brain and Research Centre.

Proposed solution

  • Enjoy company of loved ones with pastimes or games
  • Look back at your hobbies
  • Rediscover self, reset life, rethink life goals and reconsider priorities
  • Take up basic physical exercise
  • Maintain nutritious diet


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