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COVID-19 and depression

Dr. Vikas Jain is a trusted and an experienced Psychiatrist residing in Paschim Vihar, Dehli. He has had an experience of over 25 years. He is a qualified MD and MBBS. He is currently based at Dr. Vikas Jain's Clinic in Paschim Vihar, Delhi. He specializes in psychiatry and neuropsychiatry

Published: Apr 5, 2021 04:04:48 PM IST
Updated: Apr 6, 2021 01:00:20 PM IST

COVID-19 and depression
Hemmed inside their homes for months on end as a pandemic raged outside, millions of people are emerging timorously into a world that has drastically changed -- an uneasy adjustment process resulting in a spectrum of mental health issues ranging from depression to that final step, suicide.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic recession have negatively affected many people’s mental health and created new barriers for people already suffering from mental illness and substance use disorders. During the pandemic, there have been reports of symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorders. negative impacts on mental health and well-being, such as difficulty sleeping or eating, increases in alcohol consumption or substance use and worsening chronic conditions, due to worry and stress over the corona virus. As the pandemic wears on, ongoing and necessary public health measures expose many people to experiencing situations linked to poor mental health outcomes, such as isolation and jobless.

Various age groups have been identified to suffer depression due to various pandemic related consequences. Such as,

  • Young adults faced mental health issues due to closures of universities and loss of income, low self-esteem, distress and a larger than average share of young adults (ages 18-24) report symptoms of anxiety and/or depressive disorder (56%). Compared to all adults.
  • Parents and Children-  many schools and childcare centers across the have closed and transitioned to virtual instruction for at least some time. With these closures, children and their parents are experiencing ongoing disruption and changes to their daily routines. Research during the pandemic highlights concerns around poor mental health and well-being for children and their parents. For example, many parents with school-aged children are now more concerned about their children’s emotional well-being than prior to the pandemic. Both parents and their children have experienced worsening mental health since the start of the pandemic, and women with children are more likely than their male counterparts to report worsening mental health.
  • Home violence, inefficiency to make financial ends meet are also one of the reasons for leading to mental health issues.
This prolonged uncertainty has led people to feel a lot more anxious. So people who were on a mild anxiety spectrum earlier have moved to moderate and severe anxiety. When anxiety gets severe, the kinds of behaviour of self harm increase

In Gujarat, for instance, the 108 emergency ambulance service received about 800 cases of "self injuries" and 90 cases of suicide. As per the reports, the suicide prevention and counselling helpline usually got around eight to nine calls per month with 142 calls from depressed people. A majority of the callers were facing economic, family or mental health related issues and wanted to end their lives.

The economic crisis is fuelling "suicidal thoughts"

There are common anxiety issues like whether they have contracted Covid. People feel anxious if they have a common cold or cough. They are also worried about jobs, economy and EMIs. They are worried about the uncertainty of the future.

Not just that, there have always been underfunding of mental health. Prior to the pandemic, countries were spending less than 2 per cent of their national health budgets on mental health, and struggling to meet their populations’ needs. And the pandemic is increasing demand for mental health services. Bereavement, isolation, loss of income and fear are triggering mental health conditions or exacerbating existing ones. Many people may be facing increased levels of alcohol and drug use, insomnia, and anxiety. Meanwhile, COVID-19 itself can lead to neurological and mental complications, such as delirium, agitation, and stroke. People with pre-existing mental, neurological or substance use disorders are also more vulnerable to SARS-CoV-2 infection  ̶  they may stand a higher risk of severe outcomes and even death. 

While many countries (70%) have adopted telemedicine or teletherapy to overcome disruptions to in-person services, there are significant disparities in the uptake of these interventions. More than 80% of high-income countries reported deploying telemedicine and teletherapy to bridge gaps in mental health, compared with less than 50% of low-income countries. 

As the pandemic continues, even greater demand will be placed on national and international mental health programmes that have suffered from years of chronic underfunding.  

Overall, Combating depression in India should be the joint efforts of all and not just the mental health professionals. It involves a multidimensional approach to understand depression and varied strategy to combat depression in India. COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath is a challenging time which reaffirms the need.

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