It’s no news that in India we rarely speak of mental health and also care about it very little. It’s well documented that the pandemic has taken a toll on emotional well-being. And, it turns out that India is facing a mental health crisis. According to the government’s National Mental Health Survey, 10 per cent of adults met some diagnostic criteria of a mental condition, ranging from mood and anxiety disorder to severe mental illnesses.
A study shows that about 20% of teenagers and children suffer from depression and only 30% receive the right treatment. And, the ongoing pandemic has only added to their misery. Dr Kavita Dhingra, a psychologist at Rama Hospital says, “It has been more than half a year since the schools have closed or to put it in other words, the social interaction has terminated. The amount of social interaction, exposure and group activities have decreased to almost nil, and this has been the root cause of depression for most kids”, mentions Dr Dhingra.
Furthermore, the fear of being quarantined, social distancing, being isolated, and breaking the constantly changing lockdown or curfew rules has amounted to more stress. As per Dr Dhingra, lack of interaction, routine and activities apart from school work lead to a kid’s thoughts going astray, forcing them to think low of themselves. The ‘FEEL-COVID’ survey conducted in February-March 2020 with 1,106 people across 64 cities found that more than 50% of children had experienced agitation and anxiety during the lockdown. Media reports indicate that children too experienced fears about the virus, worried over access to online classes, and faced stress and were irritable as they were unable to go out. Many have faced violence in their homes or have been victims of cyberbullying, creating a deeper psychological impact.
The root cause here, however common, is the lack of awareness and stigma around mental health and illnesses like depression. “Parents are often too reluctant in talking about depression or criticize their kids for being into bad influence, remarks Dr Sudha Rai, a psychologist at Army Public School, Lucknow. “It only fuels the fire and results in the person being mentally suffocated. Ultimately, depression grows”, she adds.