Amina Zia became even more depressed after losing her husband to Covid-19 early in the pandemic.
“It was so sudden that even now, almost two years later, I still can’t accept that he won’t be back,” Zia says. He fell ill and died within a month. “When this happened, everyone was afraid of the virus, so there was no one to cry with or cuddle with.”
The pandemic has worsened mental health, exacerbated depression and anxiety, and amplified pre-existing mental illness in Pakistan, India, and around the world. It helped reduce stigma as more people shared their experiences and offered help on social media and elsewhere.
Mumbai-based psychiatrist and psychotherapist, Dr. Luxenda Sieda, said that in the face of the pandemic and an increase in severe mental health stressors, living indoors and online for a long time, virtual It says the space has become a safe space for mental health concerns.
“Mental health has become a hot topic in the pandemic, but it has become more normalized and slightly more accepted. “The main benefit of this is that therapy and counseling have become more acceptable.”
Often these stories reach across borders, giving people a glimpse of similar struggles and common humanity.
Hammad Anwar, a digital analyst and founder of an online platform called Sukhan, has organized a series on mental health during the Covid-19 pandemic to promote mental health while helping others during uncertain times. described as a way to maintain
“Mental health is one of the most neglected subjects in our society. I understood the minds of the people, I understood the kind of problems they face in such lockdowns, and I looked for solutions,” he said.
“We observed how traffic was growing in the online space. Young people were talking about domestic pressures, job insecurity, feelings of helplessness, losing loved ones and financial crises. Interestingly, the creative force was also seen to thrive, and there were also many cross-border collaborations, such as when Indian and Pakistani musicians put on a ‘home concert’ on Instagram.
Ali Sethi, the singer behind this collaboration, wrote: love conquers all. “
How Covid-19 Has Hurt Mental Health
When the pandemic started, fears of unknown diseases grew with each passing day.
Over 1.6 million Covid-19 cases were confirmed in Pakistan during the pandemic. More than 30,600 people have died, according to the Ministry of National Health Service Regulation and Coordination. In India, he has infected 44.7 million people and killed more than 530,000, according to the World Health Organization.
Viruses don’t just spread disease and death. It has also prompted lockdowns, hurt the economy and exacerbated problems such as domestic violence. All of this undermined my mental health. The World Health Organization said the global prevalence of anxiety and depression has increased by 25%.
Dr Syed Ali Wasif, a consulting psychiatrist at Zia-ud Din University Hospital and acting president of the Pakistan Mental Health Association in Karachi, said young people were greatly affected. They are in a stage of life contemplating plans for the future, and the pandemic has changed those plans.
Experts say humans are social animals and highly dependent on each other. Few people can live in isolation for long periods of time. At first, some preferred to work from home and spend more time with their families, but problems quickly arose. Child abuse and gender-based violence increased. Work was interrupted and the family suffered financially.
The pandemic has made some of the hardest things in life even worse. When people died during quarantine, it was almost impossible for others to pay their respects as they used to. However, the fear of the virus has led most people to avoid funerals, even those of close ones, in order to protect themselves and their families.
Such changes have worsened mental well-being throughout society.
Gia said her family changed dramatically after her husband died. Her adult children went silent. She said their home “isn’t the same anymore.”
At first, people called to check on them. “But slowly, the calls started to go down in frequency. One day they just finished. We were all alone. It was the worst time of my life.”
Dr. Syeda said mental health was more normalized but still lacked nuance. “As a psychiatrist, I have seen that mental health is still viewed from a situational perspective (unemployment, family, etc). Mental resilience was seen as either black or white, strength or weakness, rather than a skill to build. “
The pandemic has caused a boom in mental health care, but it has also led to a dangerous increase in unevidence-based practices. “But I’m optimistic,” she says Syeda. However, abuses such as domestic violence and sexual violence are also increasing, especially in India, where deaths due to suicide are increasing. “
So, didn’t the conversation about mental health affect how people actually understood it? The down effect will come eventually,” she says.
“The increased awareness is not just limited to Metro. Even in the second and third cities, we have patients looking for treatments and looking up their symptoms online before a session. This is a definite improvement.” says Dr. Syeda.
virtual and face-to-face
People have long been reluctant to discuss mental health issues, but the prevalence of these issues during the pandemic has started to erode the stigma.
Many people, especially young people, took to social media to explain some of their struggles. They began sharing memories and photos of loved ones who had died from the virus.
During this time, doctors and psychologists began offering online services in India and Pakistan. People of all ages called and texted asking for help. Dr. Sona Kaushal Gupta, a psychologist from Dehradun, India, provided psychological support to parents and children who were struggling to cope with their mental health under lockdown.
“Parents, apart from dealing with other important issues, were struggling with their children because they couldn’t see their school and friends and they were behaving badly. It was showing signs of depression,” says Gupta, founder of Psychological Assistance and Rehabilitation In Children.
“Even the older students were frightened by the unknown virus and called for help. We are receiving calls from parents and students who have not returned to normal life after their routines were disrupted during the lockdown.”
Mental health is not yet understood through multidimensional biological and social models. There are no quick solutions. A devastating global event like a pandemic must have profound and lasting effects. Mental resilience will help you weather the storm. Dr. Syeda said she hopes increased awareness and acceptance of counseling services will help build resilience.
Dr. Gupta adds:
Dr Syeda said in India, “Generation Z has a better understanding of mental health and parents are slowly realizing it. My advice is to listen to children. told kids to seek help on how to do a digital detox to cure their social media addiction.
As for Zia, she says her family is healing. They are all in therapy. Treatment is expensive, but it helps a lot. As more people face their mental health problems head-on, they need more support from the government, she says.
“For our society to grow into a healthy society, the government needs to take mental health more seriously,” she says.
The project is part of a three-year program coordinated by the East-West Center to encourage journalists from India and Pakistan to identify key stories of common interest in both countries.
Devina Buckshee is a health journalist and MPH candidate at the Yale School of Public Health. She tweets at @DevinaB21. Rabia Umaima Ahmed is a freelance journalist. She tweets @Umaimablogger.