COVID-19, now a pandemic, has become a global health emergency. Physical health concerns are the obvious health issues related to it. But, there are psychological concerns which have also come up in these times. This is hardly surprising or unexpected. People around the world are witness to sudden deaths or ‘threats’ of deaths. Patients of COVID-19 are direct threat of uncertainty about their life. They have to experience social isolation, fear of survival, also while facing a lot of physical discomfort. To add on top is the economic and financial crunch, unemployment and the emotional suffering of the family.
Many COVID-19 survivors are also suffering serious medical problems following their treatment. This means there will now exist a continuous vexatious process. It will depend on hospital resources, rehabilitation centers and other medical providers. Thus, exposure to all such events related to COVID-19 and its deteriorating impact is a cause of trauma. There is an enhanced risk of developing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (hereinafter referred to as ‘PTSD’). PTSD is a condition developed after experiencing psychological trauma. These find their roots in life threatening traumas. The reactions persists for over a month and also cause deep distress and disruption.
Therefore, it is not a difficult task to establish that the scope and extent of the mental health concerns of the people. It thereby highlights the issue of addressing them.
Risk Factors and Predicted Causes
Initial analysis of risk factors found premise from previous infectious disease outbreaks. For example – experience of people with Ebola. This link finds its base on the common factors of high levels of mortality, perceptions of threat, experience with ill individuals, food and resource insecurity.
Research has suggested that the extensive media exposure lead to peak stress responses in the general public. Especially since all news is remarkable concentrated on the COVID-19 news. ‘Community crisis’ is the concern in such a scenario. A community-wide trauma is an upcoming phenomena. People see photos, hear narratives and other personal details which upset them. Critiqued burial process, lack of respect to the dead, belonging to the same society are accelerating factors.
Explanation to the Causes
The Lancet has reported about likeliness of PTSD as a psychological impact of quarantine. Protocol measures of quarantine, isolation, implementing lock-downs are essential. It ensures society’s physical protection. But, the side effect of the same appears on the mental health radar. Within the people reporting symptoms of PTSD, a common pattern comes into picture. They feel deprived of ‘important resources’. Lack of communication, comforting physical touch/presence, access to personal supplies and essential items (result of panic buying and hoarding) are some of them.
As a result, high levels of loneliness and low distress tolerance also became strongly associated with PTSD. There is also a particular clinical factor relevant for consideration. COVID-19 serious cases, their patients got hospitalized in ICUs. Intensive Care Units (ICUs) and prolonged treatment and stay associates to highest rates of medical PTSD! Thus the range of audience the disorder can affect is vast. This focuses on the importance of addressing it on a much larger scale than anticipated.
Quarantine, lockdowns, other isolation methods is unavoidable at present. As integral to deal with COVID-19 these measures are, tackling mental health concerns should not stay left out. Thus, being there for people, checking up on them, and helping them is the initial step needed. Legal framework on the same is important to understand.
Decoding Indian Government’s stance with the issue – Political and Legal
The global reach of COVID-19 has brought along a string of sad and upsetting news. Amidst the growth of both the spread of the disease and the trauma, it is important for Governments to look after the mental health of the public. Recently, an agreement formulated between India and the United States of America to help each other in the matters of mental health. An essential step involved in this is helping the United States to adopt yoga and meditation.
There exists a vital link between the mental well-being of the people and the economy of the nation. Estimated economic loss to the global economy is more than $1 trillion dollars. Unproductivity, unplanned off days etc. have a negative impact the economy and the functioning of the State. To address mental health concerns thus, becomes imperative. Especially considering the staggering impact on economy in the COVID-19 times.
Therefore, apart from the gross economic impact, there are other reasons for the government’s obligation. The government is duty bound according to international and national statutes. India is a signatory to the Convention on Rights of Persons with Disability (2007). It binds the government to look into mental health issues that is prevalent in the society.
Policies of the Government
In 2014, National Mental Health Policy launched in India. This gave way for a revised policy and its implementation. In 2017, the Indian government also enforced Mental Healthcare Act. It is a result of the main objectives of providing fair, affordable, and universal access to mental health care.
While dealing with the pandemic, it is also important for the government to deal with the collateral issues and challenges. PTSD, mental health concerns are going to have a denting impact. The main driving factor has to be adhering to the Constitution of India. The Constitution of India and the provision of fundamental rights highlight the importance of Article 21 – “Right to Life”. The Supreme Court of India has also interpreted the same to ensure quality of human life and human dignity. Good health is an essential part of it, both physical and mental.
Legal provisions provide the basic aid, the sense of existence of options. It is also important to understand the care package essentials. It is what every person suffering requires. Medicinal and psychiatric aid is of utmost importance.
Addressing the prominent question here – effective treatments for PTSD do exist! Some of the data here will also definitely come handy.
Professional help should be mandatory. Suggest the same to anyone that might need help in dealing with the issue of trauma from the pandemic. It could be your friends, family, and colleagues, even yourself. Psychiatric medications (prescribed) like SSRI antidepressants and Prazosin (for nightmares) are also effective. Forms of cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy involving “emotional processing” is a part of the professional help. Thus, it’s recommended as well as proven successful. A lot of other helpful approaches are available here.
The first mode of approach in this issue has to be to avoid having a ‘dismissive’ attitude towards people’s concern. Lending an ear, and empathy are two such pillars that can help the society in greatest potential. Abolishing stigma around therapy is also a must. Professional help can go a long way in helping people overcome the mental trauma they experience.
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