Well it's now official that COVID-19 is indeed taking a toll on the mental health index of the world. According to the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) published in US around mid August almost 11 percent of respondents had reported suicidal ideation.
Nikki Young, a licensed marriage and family therapist practising in the US stated, "Individuals have shared significant cues in terms of suicidal ideation with me. In my capacity as a therapist, I have noticed debilitating levels of anxiety and major symptoms of clinical depression".
The scenario is not much different in India where the pandemic has ravaged businesses and social ecosystems. While many practising psychologists have reported a tremendous increase of patients in recent months some say that the cases are far more complex and even dangerous today. In other words suicidal ideation is bordering on the thoughts of many a man and woman.
Though mental and physical health goes hand in hand we often overlook the former"We do not know how long the pandemic will last, and we do not know what 'normal' will look like going forward. Major stressors like this, especially those that come with such an overwhelming degree of uncertainty, tend to increase mental health issues," explains a counsellor.
According to psychiatrists and mental health experts some categories of people are more prone to massive depression and suicidal ideation. For instance essential workers may be facing heightened stress resulting from an increased likelihood of exposure. On the other hand those working from home are likely to experience increased stress in managing work-life and home-life balance.
One may argue that suicidal ideation is an extreme outcome of even severe depression and therefore is it safe to generalise and say that most people who are undergoing depression because of the pandemic are also prone to suicide? "The problems like sudden job and financial losses, mounting debts etc that have been unleashed by the pandemic have no clear solutions atleast in the near future. There is overwhelming and worrying uncertainty and this is one major reason that has crippled people's ability to look forward, cope and plan," says Neetu Tiwari a psychiatrist based in Delhi.
However, a broad set of coping strategies can help in mitigating or atleast reducing stress and avert depression and suicide. "Social isolation is not an option in these trying times contrary to the stringent mandates of social distancing. We can take steps to connect with others by adopting precautions. Leveraging technology platforms is a great way of doing this," says Tiwari. "Set a schedule for yourself and follow a daily routine. Also schedule time each day to engage in a healthy, stress-relieving activity and challenge yourself to find examples of positive, uplifting moments in your week. If constant exposure to information via social media or television becomes overwhelming, limit it to a set amount each day," she advises. It is important to remember that the level of pain and distress being felt at this moment is temporary for many.