The coronavirus crisis poses the greatest threat to mental health since the World War II, with the impact to be felt for years after the virus has been brought under control, United Kingdom (UK)’s leading psychiatrist and the president of the Royal College, Dr Adrian James, has warned. The numbers may rise, he added, as the full impact on disadvant-aged communities, care homes and people with disabilities becomes clear. While Dr James’s assessment/warning is specifically about the UK, the situation is not too different in India.
Mental health issues in the context of Covid-19 are more complex and challenging due to a large proportion of socially and economically vulnerable population, high burden of pre-existing mental illness, constrained mental health services infrastructure, less penetration of digital mental health solutions, and, above all, the scare created due to misinformation on social media, says a study Mental health implications of Covid-19 pandemic and its response in India, published in the International Journal of Social Psychiatry in September.
After the pandemic began, there were many reports of people suffering from increased stress, anxiety, depression, insomnia, denial, anger and fear in India. In response, the Centre announced intervention strategies, telepsychiatry consultations and toll-free numbers for psychological and behavioural issues. These need to expanded and made more accessible. The thrust now, as the paper suggests, should also be on developing need-based interventions with proper risk communication strategies and keeping on par with the evolving epidemiology of Covid-19, they should be instrumental in guiding the planning and prioritisation of mental health care resources.