NEW DELHI: India, in the middle of an unprecedented pandemic, may also be witnessing a quieter but equally damaging health catastrophe — an explosion in the number of people grappling with mental health issues.Experts feel that the factors such as lockdown, forced isolation, fear of the virus, financial insecurity, domestic violence and rising anxiety has led to the deepening of the mental health crisis over the last few months.
Findings of a survey carried out by the Bengaluru-based Suicide Prevention Foundation of India among mental health professionals has shown that nearly 65% therapists observed an increase in self-harm and suicide ideation or death wish amongst those who sought therapy, since the pandemic hit.Equally worryingly, rates of relapse have increased, according to 6 out of 10 therapists. Anxiety, job loss or fear of job loss, stress, isolation/loneliness and financial insecurity, top the list of concerns for people seeking help. What the Foundation found has been confirmed by some of the senior psychiatrists.
“There is definitely an increase in the number of patients as we are getting many more requests for tele consultation,” said Dr Nand Kumar, professor of psychiatry at AIIMS, Delhi.“Most patients worry about contracting Covid 19. One of the problems I have noticed among people is low grade fatigue and uncertainty about life. This does not qualify for any mental illness but certainly a major mental health issue,” he said.
Dr Kumar said, “The most important step is to accept that the mainstay of any epidemic management is behavioral modification of the public,” he says. “For any behavioural modification we ought to convey a robust unambiguous scientific knowledge based message to the public.”
Findings of SPIF survey
29% of therapists said there is an increase in clients who have self-harmed, as well as those who have expressed suicidal ideation or death wish
42% of therapists reported a possible increase in individuals presenting with suicidal ideation
35.8% reported an increase in people having self-harmed
57.9% of therapists said that individuals who had previously recovered have now relapsed
42.8% found that increase was below 10%; 37.7% observed 50% hike in relapses, with one therapist having experienced a doubled rate