Mental health as a casualty of Covid-19 | HT Editorial
While the State is busy tackling the pandemic, there is a strong chance that the requirement for more mental health professionals, low-cost and accessible helplines, and adequate medicines will once again go unaddressed
The second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, the massive number of daily deaths and the constant struggle for hospital beds, medicines and oxygen are affecting the mental well-being of people, according to several mental health experts. The mental health situation, they feel, is much worse now than last year during the first Covid-19 wave.
The year, the situation is dismal for several reasons. The second wave has been much more severe and took many by surprise because it came just as people felt things were returning to normal. Many are also feeling guilty for not being able to support those around them adequately. Besides, many people were yet to recover from financial and personal losses of last year. Cumulatively, these factors are gravely impacting people’s sense of self-confidence, positivity, and resilience to cope with situations. This second round of the pandemic is also bound to impact the vulnerable sections more since they have much less access to mental health professionals.
The World Health Organization (WHO), in 2019, estimated that 7.5% of Indians were affected by mental health disorders. This number will likely go up significantly because of the pandemic. India has only 0.75 psychiatrists per 100,000 people in India. This is far below the three psychiatrists per 100,000 people mandated by WHO. While the State is busy tackling the pandemic, there is a strong chance that the requirement for more mental health professionals, low-cost and accessible helplines, and adequate medicines will once again go unaddressed. If that happens, India will pay heavily again for being under-prepared to tackle a health crisis.