The pandemic has set a new normal for everyone. How well you are coping with it depends on how well informed and how much flexible you are. Dr Tejal Kothari, the New Delhi based Psychiatrist enlightens us about rising incidents of mental health disorders, the altered financial situation for many families, women and their increased responsibilities and most importantly, the kids and what we can do to let them sail through this period without any mental impact. Read on:
Those who were already facing some psychological issues like depression, anxiety etc how this Pandemic has affected them?
There are various kinds of psychiatric disorders. during this pandemic number of studies have been done that have shown that covid 19 and lockdown has had a serious impact on mental health of not just people who were ill before this but also those who did not have a mental disorder. The stress increased to such an extent that they actually developed a mental illness. Talking about people who had mental illness before this pandemic and lockdown began, definitely it has worsened the state of a lot of people. The reasons include the fear created by the pandemic, the media created frenzy, a lot of patients could not get their medicines due to lockdown and that seriously impacted their recovery. Talking specifically, depression anxiety worsened in most cases while disorders like OCD where a person has a compulsion of washing hands also worsened because of the media frenzy and the constant use of sanitizers being advised.
As a Doctor, I specially felt that because of lockdown so many of my patients could not procure their medicines and that created a lot of problem. Also patients who were suffering from addictions like alcoholics could not get their substances and that led to a lot of them coming into medical emergency with serious withdrawal symptoms.
How this pandemic impacted the family or the lifestyle of people in general?
Mothers were overworked and tired because now the entire family stays at home and she has to manage everyone. Many people lost their jobs leading to increase in anxiety and depression in them. A lot of families suffered from financial losses worsening pre-exisiting conditions. The elderly could not go out for their walks or meeting friends. Children are amongst the worst hit. School closure and less outdoor play time minimised the ways to channelise their energies.
Are women more vulnerable than men in the present scenario?
women are more vulnerable specially because of our culture and practices prevalent in our country. A woman is a provider. She is expected to work for her family at home, take care of her children apart from other household chores. The pandemic increased her work many folds. She has to take care of her child’s online classes also cook for her family and do all the household chores.
working women have to manage their homes and their work. the work from home makes it more difficult for them. they get no breaks and have often complained about how tiring it gets. also domestic helpers and women who work as maids or cooks lost their jobs. lower socio economic strata was worst hit. so its safe to say that women have experienced more anxiety and depression during this pandemic. a special note for pregnant women during this phase. a lot of them contracted covid before during or after deliveries. the anxiety they face is massive. current reaserch is still being done on whether their is any risk on child maternal transmission of this virus. so along with being vulnerable from pregnancy this infection definitely increased the burden of mental illness on them.
Could you please throw some light on domestic violence during this period.
A lot of people suffered from domestic verbal abuse and fights within the family that worsened their mental health. Indian women are amongst the worst hit when it comes to domestic violence. it has recently being noted that domestic violence has reached its 10 year high during lockdown.
Apart from just physical abuse the cases of sexual abuse have also sky-rocketed during this time.
What should be the role of parents right now as kids are facing unprecedented times?
Parents have to understand that it may be a while before the children are sent back to school. A lot of parents are entirely dependent on schools when it comes to teaching the children. they should take active interest in the child’s life. They must sit and talk to children, discuss their mental states and treat the children as a confidant in whom they can confide. For younger kids, the parents must engage in activities and not allow screen time of more than half an hour a day. Make sure you have a routine set for them for older children and teenagers parents must be friendly enough for the kids to share their issues with them at least parents should try and provide an environment that doesn’t increase the kids anxiety. They must monitor their kids regarding their online activities and should try and keep them busy with household chores. a new hobby or a new skill can be inculcated during this time. children are malleant, they will learn more quickly and will thank you later. Also academics should not be completely dependent on online classes. kids must be encouraged to follow a school like schedule. adding home based physical exercises like maybe a family routine of say half n hour aerobic video can make the families bond better. Board games can help the family enjoy sometime with each other.