While social distancing is important at the moment to manage the spread of the deadly Coronavirus, it seems to be having a devastating effect on people’s mental health. The isolation and fear are not only escalating already existing mental distress but also resulting in the development of a wide range of symptoms of psychological distress including low mood, insomnia, anger, depression etc. across age groups. While the elderly suffer from loneliness and helplessness, those who have a dysfunctional family or do not get along with other family members have reported feeling extremely claustrophobic.
Pratima Murthy, the head of the psychiatry department at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), Bengaluru, commented, “ These are strange times. What we generally prescribe for the elderly is social interaction for their emotional wellbeing. And now they’ve been told the opposite: to physically distance themselves, even from their grandchildren.” According to her, a routine for all age groups, especially the elderly is extremely important since any disruption leads to anxiety. Natasha Vijay, a Bengaluru based psychotherapist, views the pandemic as an ‘invisible enemy’ and considers it to be very hard on women due to the constant health warnings and alerts. While a helpline has been set up by NIMHANS to reach out to the patients, States like Kerala have set up helplines to tele-counsel people during the lockdown. Kiran P.S, a state nodal officer for Mental Health Program that runs the helpline, stated that “People in quarantine grapple first with stigma, then anxiety about being infected; then of course with the stress of loneliness.”
Though social distancing is crucial at this stage, it is important to remain emotionally connected with friends, family or even neighbors by either calling them or through acts of altruism. This is important to not feel disengaged or isolated from others. While staying with family may not be a rosy picture for all, people should avoid any kind of overload of information from social media in times of such uncertainty and keep themselves busy with activities such as playing games, reading books, listening to music, watching movies etc.
It is thus important to focus on the positive news, like the news of people recovering rather than focusing on the negatives, as also recommended by the WHO.
Rahman. A.P. (2020). Isolation and Mental health: the psychological impact of the lockdown. Retrieved from here
Powar. R (2020). Psychosocial Impact of the COVID lockdown. Retrieved from here