Webinar on “Finding the Light Inside: Mental Well-being and the Pandemic”

GG News Bureau
Mumbai, 22nd May.The most important thing that we need to develop as a society is compassion and understanding. COVID-19 is a universal problem as all are suffering either directly or indirectly, stated the mental health professionals in a webinar today, on the topic “Finding the Light Inside: Mental Well-being and the Pandemic”.
Jointly organized by the Press Information Bureau and the Regional Outreach Bureau, Maharashtra and Goa Region, the webinar’s expert panelists included mental health professionals from NIMHANS, Bangalore – Dr. Pratima Murthy, Head of the Department and Professor of Psychology and Dr. Jyotsna Agrawal, Associate Professor.
The mental health issues that a person infected with COVID-19 may face

Dr. Murthy stated, “The preponderant issue is that of fear”. The doctor explained that a whole lot of fear plays in one’s mind like what is going to happen, whether a hospital bed will be available, what will happen to one’s lungs and other organs – “a whole lot of fears”. Dr. Murthy also said, “If we take one step back, we know that out of every 100 people, 85 people just have a normal fever and other symptoms, which are usually self-limiting and most people get better”.

Secondly, there is so much information that one gets confused as to what to do. So, it is very important to get the right kind of information, advised the mental health expert.

Thirdly, a person who gets hospitalized or is in the ICU may develop psychological difficulties, may face depression, anxiety, have recollections of that very traumatic period. Similarly, family members of those in hospital or ICU may feel anxious about how helpless they felt, how they were not able to do anything. And of course, when you lose a person to COVID, that is possibly one of the most difficult psychological moments when you experience grief and bereavement. Further, there can also be mental health sequels after COVID infection, which includes, in addition to anxiety and depression, what is called ‘Long COVID’, a condition where people feel very fogged in their brain, not able to think clearly, have neurological symptoms. Stating these, Dr. Murthy said, it is important to be aware about some of these things, but at the same time, not to go into a panic in terms of responding to it.

Dr. Agrawal opined, some of the time, people are having this feeling of loss of control. People are losing jobs, having financial, emotional and other difficulties. At home too, various kinds of difficulties they are facing. Overall, a sense of questioning ‘what is this life?’ is being seen. A lot of questioning at the existential system is also arising in many people. They are questioning their belief system and the way they have lived their lives. All of these may make people feel numb or disconnected with what they are experiencing. And to cope up with that, people may take up many unhealthy pathways which can worsen the situation. So, the mental health effect of COVID has been huge, the doctor concluded.

Speaking about unhealthy ways of coping with mental health issues, Dr Murthy stated, lots of substance abuse has increased, be it alcohol, tobacco or other drugs. That is one of the concerns that we always certainly have during a pandemic.
The ways in which we can help includes making sure that people with COVID who cannot step out of their homes have food reached to them. We can make sure that we stay connected to them, reach out to them through calls or social media. There are people who are helping families with funerals, especially where the family is not able to go or does not have the wherewithal”, stated Dr. Murthy. People are reaching out in innumerable ways and that is where it helps to deal in a public manner with stress or grief around what we are seeing. This kind of collective response is very important. Being empathetic and understanding is also very important, suggests Dr. Murthy.
Dr. Murthy said, it is very important to spread public awareness that people are not alone. There are some people who like their privacy, but they are not necessarily lonely people. However, loneliness at these times can be very troublesome. It is important to make people understand that there is a support network they can reach out to. On the other hand, people who are much more effusive and expressive should know how they can help themselves as well as reach out for help. “Connectedness and knowing where things are available is very important. In addition, all of us need to know how reasonably we can deal with loneliness, depression, and most importantly, grief”
Dr Murthy added that this is a time where family members are sharing chores. Hence, this is a time when younger children are learning to be responsible in some ways. These are times when relationships have been strained and conflicts can get amplified.

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