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- The COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing lockdown has taken a significant toll on people’s mental health, according to experts.
One such expert sounding the alarm is Dr. Manoj Dhungana who said that the instances of psychological problems had increased greatly since the lockdown was imposed on March 24.
In Bhairahawa’s Universal College of Medical Sciences (UCMS) alone, more than 2,360 people have come seeking treatment for various mental problems in the past three months.
This is reflective of a larger problem as doctors and mental health professionals, all across the country, report a rise in the number of mental patients. A majority of them are youth belonging to the age group of 16 to 30 years.
Dr. Tanveer Ahmad Khan, psychiatrist at Nepalgunj Medical College (NMC), said, “People were locked indoors, day-in and day-out, and stress levels rose immensely.” He informed that around 25 to 30 people were visiting NMC daily, seeking help for mental health problems. “A rise in mental health problems may also translate into a rise in suicide cases,” Dr. Dhungana said, adding, “Of all the people who have taken their lives since the lockdown began, 80 per cent have done so because of psychological disorders.”
Women more affected
Going by the statistics of UCMS, of all the patients reporting psychological issues in the months April, May, and June, 91 were men and 199 women.
The reason behind larger number of female patients is the lockdown greatly increased their workload. “Household chores increased, the need to take care of the children arose and working women also had to manage work from home,” said Dr. Rishav Koirala, consultant psychiatrist at Grande International Hospital. He also said that women also had to endure domestic violence, further straining their mental state. “However, we do not have concrete studies in Nepal so we cannot say for sure,” he said.
Unavailability of medicine
The lockdown not only created new patients but also revived the problems of many old patients. As per the experts, many people who were under regular medications for their psychological conditions were not able to go out or obtain their medicines, causing their issues to resurface again.
Dr. Khan said, “Many long-term patients who had been taking Indian medicines were unable to get them because of the border closure. This resulted in the deterioration of their condition.”
Dr. Koirala further added to this, saying that the lockdown upset people’s coping mechanisms. “People who had been dealing with their issues by going out with friends or going to the office, gym, cinemas were suddenly unable to do that, leaving them without a support system. This gave rise to mental problems,” he said.
Other patients also affected
People who visit hospitals for other non-psychological problems also fear the possible transmission of the coronavirus. They are highly suspicious and ask many questions, say doctors.
Koirala termed this “acute stress reaction”. “People are scared that they might contract the disease and are in a state of alarm,” he said, adding, “People are also extremely anxious.”
Need for optimism
To avert mental health problems, experts throughout the nation ask people to foster positive thoughts and not be preoccupied with one particular thing for long.
Gulmi Hospital suggested the public that they involve themselves in study to prevent their minds from wandering and indulging in negative side of things. Hospital head Dr. Uttam Pachya recommended, “The trick is to keep oneself busy, enjoy with the family and maybe read different books.”
“Our mind starts conjuring up negative scenarios when we are alone so we should not stay without company for long,” he said. “We should also share anything that may be bothering us with our family.”
source : The Rising Nepal