Spare a thought for those who have been bereaved by COVID-19

There's a real mental health crisis brewing if it's not already happening, and it's unlikely to go away overnight

It's hard to escape the reality that a teeming number of people world over have lost their lives to coronavirus. Infact the numbers are so mind-numbing that it may be hard to think of the people behind them.But the losses are real and the ripple effect extends beyond immediate families to whole communities. Also the effects are not confined to the families of people who die. The families of people who become seriously ill and survive are also affected.
A new report suggests the pandemic could leave hundreds of thousands grieving. In many cases, that grief may be exacerbated by the isolation and separation from loved ones."There are fears that those secondary victims could be headed for intense and enduring psychological distress," warns a psychiatrist adding, "There's a real mental health crisis brewing if it's not already happening, and it's unlikely to go away overnight.".
Fit Northeast chose to set out to talk to families about how they're handling grief and how their loss may be changing their lives.
Rupa Sarkar a 22 -year-old medical student from Guwahati has been dealt a double blow. She lost both her father and grandfather to COVID-19 in just over a month.
"My father was a doctor and a very healthy man. Hence his sudden death has devastated me," says Sarkar and adds, "When the pandemic began, my father was conducting telemedicine appointments, but he still wanted to see his long-time patients at nursing homes. He was seeing them in full PPE (personal protective equipment), but he still somehow caught the virus."
Her grandmother contracted the virus from her father and passed away within 15 days.
There are fears that the secondary victims could be headed for intense and enduring psychological distress too
"For my family, it's a roller coaster of emotions. One second we're just trying to get by, the next somebody's crying in the house," Sarkar shares.
Representative image
Image: Representative image
The families of healthcare workers are being hit hard by the pandemic. Incidentally many healthcare workers have lost their lives in the line of duty. At 21, Teena Sharma from Tezpur says she feels conflicted. This nursing student is happy to have survived COVID-19. But she is devastated that she lost her brother to the virus.
"I never thought I'd go through something like this. Our lives had been almost picture perfect. Now my life is upside down," Teena laments. Teena says she'd like to go back to work in healthcare after a while. But for now, she is trying to comfort her parents and she's finding some solace in urging people to be careful.
Mental health experts are of the view that secondary victims of COVID-19; meaning those who have lost their loved ones and those who have seen their loved ones contract the virus and suffer are probably much worse hit (compared to the primary victims).
"These people require professional counseling but this cannot be any ordinary form of counseling," says N Phukan a senior psychiatrist from Guwahati. "While the ones who have lost their loved ones need grief counseling the ones who are dealing with COVID patients in their household or close family need sessions in stress and anxiety management. COVID 19 is definitely unleashing a whole plethora of issues that are now challenging the goals and approaches of professional counselors," he sums.

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