The psychological impact of Corona

Shri Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’

“Our mental state should be such that even if we fail once, we must try again. This attitude should be there in every student’s life”, said the Honourable Prime Minister while providing coping strategies to students to deal with stress, anxiety and pressure at Pariksha Pe Charcha 3.0. However, The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the students and others alike resulting in stressful situations on all the frontiers. It has exposed us to multiple challenges disrupting normal routines and increased stress, and anxieties amongst all age groups and professions. Mental health has a reciprocal relationship with the well-being and productivity of society. Worldwide, mental and behavioural disorders represent 11% of the total disease burden expressed in terms of disability-adjusted life years (DALYs); which is predicted to increase to 15% by 2020. It is ironic that the recent data collected by WHO reveals the presence of a large gap between resources that are available in countries for mental health and the burden caused by mental health problems.
According to WHO, health-promoting policies are needed in the health care sector, and in the economic, environmental, and social sectors for bringing in a positive impact on the determinants of health and improved health equity. Besides this, there are lots of things and initiatives you and I can do to look after our mental health and help others who may need some extra support and care. I express my gratitude to Union Finance Minister Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman for announcing the launch of initiatives for the psychological well-being of students, family members and teachers during the time of COVID- 19 pandemic under the Economic Relief Package.
Advancing the efforts, Corona Studies Series named ‘Psycho-social Impact of Pandemic and How to cope with’ was conceptualized by National Book Trust to document and to provide relevant reading materials for all age-groups for the post-Corona readership needs. The books were based on numerous telephone calls and shared online surveys across various age groups conducted by eminent psychologists; the research efforts resulted in publishing itinto seven handbooks.
The amazing work done is worth sharing, here are some extracts from the publications; The Future of Social Distancing: New Cardinals for Children, Adolescents, and Youth; describes how the students were adapting to the new way of learning and living, and how they faced anxiety, stress, uncertainty, and panic. Parallelly, how they strived to learn and harness their skills, talents while getting acquainted with the technology. Caught in Corona Conflict: An Approach to the Working Population, Making Sense of It All marks the annotations that the dismayed situation of COVID 19 pandemic has evolved a myriad of socio-economic and personal challenges for the working professionals.
Sadly, sisters and mothers in my beloved country are facing escalated forms of domestic violence and substance abuse, during the pandemic. They also lack a support system to deal with such issues. The situation of New Frontiers at Home: An Approach to Women, Mothers and Parents reflects the situation of women abuse. Though the fear at these challenging times may try to engulf us we need to put our acts together to make ourselves feel better. With several connotations and colours of mental stress, Vulnerable in Autumn: Understanding the Elderly, suggests that the Elderly needs to be given the role of a Family Counsellor as they have vast personal and social experiences and wisdom to guide the present generation. Understanding the Concerns of Persons with Disabilities, and Alienation and Resilience mention that the Children with Special Needs gradually started feeling lethargic, bored, and isolated. They faced concerns about equal access and priority on receiving medical care in case they get infected.
The country has seen exceptional support from the corona warriors, be it doctors, nurses, or other medical staff. On one hand, they have the stress of saving others’ lives and on the other hand, they have to battle their anxiety of protecting themselves. How can we leave the warriors in such aghast pain and stress? The Ordeal of Being Corona Warriors: An Approach to Medical and Essential Service Providers provide applicable and yet self-administrative therapeutic tools to help them achieve good mental health.Leaping forward, the same fear, discrimination and social stigma, and has been broached upon in Understanding Corona Affected Families.
Though the findings sadden my soul at the same time motivates me to lead steps for change towards better Mental Health. I firmly agree with the suggestions made by the study group that in the post-corona times, as a nation we need to strengthen the Preventive Mental Health component of the National Mental Health Programme with emphasis on community-based mental health promotion as an integral part of public health and health promotion policies at local and national levels. The crusade for post-Corona times will have to be a multi-dimensional one with an emphasis on Physical Fitness and Immunity, Socio-Economic adaptations, and mass-based Preventive Mental Health programs to prepare for a resilient and well-adapted society.
(Shri Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ is Human Resource Development Minister of Government of India)