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January 15, 2021 Friday 10:48:13 AM IST

Helplines are Open

Health Monitor

The mental health issues faced by Covid-19 patients are indeed very serious and sometimes severe. Since they have to stay away from family members, they encounter loneliness, anxiety and mental problems. They may become anxious about transmitting the disease to others and how others may perceive them being Covid affected. They have to be given confidence to overcome the crisis.

Relatives, friends, colleagues can connect with the patients through phone. We should give the confidence that we are with the patient. At the same time the patient should not take the situation lightly. Patients and family members must follow the directives of the health department. There have been isolated cases of suicide by Covid patients as people have shown discrimination to Covid patients and also isolated them. Government has created awareness programmes in the community to prevent such happenings from occurring again.

Along with physical health problems caused by Covid-19, several small and big mental health problems have to be realized and interventions provided in time. Those affected should be able to talk openly and there should be someone ready to listen. Government has provided mental health support clinics in primary health centres, clinics, district hospitals, mental health centres, family health centres, taluk hospitals and medical colleges. Every state government has provided helplines for counseling and clarification of doubts regarding pandemic. In Kerala there is a Disha Helpline number 1056 whose services are free. If required patients can avail psychiatric medicine treatments for which government health department has made arrangements.

Mental health of children, women and senior citizens were also affected by the pandemic. If the symptoms persist for more than two weeks, it may be a symptom of depression. Suicidal tendencies can also occur. Genetic factors, living circumstances, attitude, the way challenges are met by an individual all have an influence on mental health. In such instances, Interpersonal communication may become ineffective. There will be drastic change in talking  and expressing emotions. The patient may suffer from bouts of anger and become impatient. Care should be taken to avoid disruptions in personal and marital relationships.

Domestic violence and use of intoxicants may increase in men. Every individual should ensure Covid protocols and be vigilant against the virus attack.

With Covid outbreak, we are facing an unparalleled crisis. Over anxiety, worry, fear and depression are the major problems faced by the patients who become extremely vigilant and stressful. Sleeplessness, aches and pains, loss of appetite, loss of concentration, sadness, anhedonia, loss of enthusiasm, loss of energy, difficulty in taking decision, forgetfulness, slowdown in physical and mental activity, weeping, depressive symptoms and such other different symptoms will be visible.

Stress Busters
•    Spend time creatively
•    Draw pictures
•    Engage in farming
•    Do gardening
•    Maintain kitchen garden
•    Buy seeds, sow and nurture them in the backyard
•    Watch entertainment programmes in TV
•    Reflect on the past- critical events, turning points in life, how crises were faced and overcome, recall, talk and write about such experiences. Utilise the services of children and friends

A US survey has revealed that Covid-19 pandemic has caused ‘significant depressive symptoms’ in 80% of participants. The analysed findings, published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, show that ‘alarming’ levels of loneliness are associated with significant mental health issues, as approximately 61% of respondents reporting moderate (45%) to severe (17%) anxiety.
Dr. Elizabeth Reichert, a clinical assistant professor of Stanford Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, and Director of the Pediatric Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Clinic offers some guidelines to overcome depression, anxiety and risk for suicide.
•Keep routines as much as possible. Try to find activities on which you can anchor your day.
•Engage in self-care. Eat healthy, nutritious foods, drink plenty of water and exercise regularly.
•Take breaks from listening to the news.
•Separate workspace from living space. If possible, create a workspace at home that is separate from everything else.
•Stay connected. FaceTime, Skype, phone calls and other social media platforms can be a great way to see loved ones and friends.
•Ground yourself in the present moment.
•Be patient.
•Engage in activities that are in line with your values.

Dr T Sagar, Psychiatrist

Govt Mental Health Centre, Trivandrum Read more articles..