CHENNAI: When it comes to mental health, there is always more than what meets the eye. Such is the curse of its characteristic. In the informed age where we are sincerely trying to position mental health in the centre-stage for public awareness and sensitisation, adverse situations, like the one now, make lives trying for people with various conditions.
“The pandemic has pushed people living with mental health issues further into darkness,” says P Thiruchelvi, who has bipolar disorder. “Even those who have money are unable to procure medicines due to the ‘out-of-stock show’ at medical shops. Since a lot of people have lost jobs and the medicines cost between `30-50 for a day, some are unable to afford it.” She adds that people with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and psychosis are the worst affected.
“Others can at least manage to some extent. But, those with these disorders, if they do not take medicines, they may inflict self-harm or develop suicidal thoughts. Three people I know killed themselves in the last three months as did not take medicines and could not handle the pressure,” she worries.
The regular doctors who are not available for consultation are also turning out to be a perennial problem. According to RS Vihari of Nungambakkam, who has schizophrenia, only a few doctors are seeing their patients on video calls. There is no one available for therapy sessions or to change the prescription of medicines, leading to more stress.
“My husband was working as an autorickshaw driver. Ever since the pandemic began, he has not been able to earn and we are struggling for food. I am under medication for my depression for the past three years. But, for the last three months, I have not been able to afford a single tablet. I do not know how I feel anymore,” says a 38-year-old woman on condition of anonymity.
She too says that one of her friends killed herself as she did not find any help. People with mental health problems are requesting the government to provide psychiatric help for them. Ponn Mohandas, a social activist says, “Normally, at least half of them who are recovering buy medicines on their own. During a pandemic, with uncertainty and darkness looming over them, they need someone to take care of them. But nobody is coming forward. Also, this section of people have not received any financial aid yet, which would at least better their situation,” he underscores.