THE PANDEMIC'S PUG - MARKS

Gurrit K Sethi, Strategic Advisor, Global Health Services, Global Strategic Analysis

Perhaps one of the most devastating effects of the ongoing pandemic is on our mental health. As we shuffle through the nitty gritties of new ways of living, and for many a bare survival, we need to cast a serious look at our psyches and re-build / re-new our coping mechanisms towards a ‘healthier living’.

The lockdown opened a lot many different vistas for all – in different walks of life, and, within that, of different aspects of life. Professionals, Industrialists, Business people, Daily wagers, Students, Homemakers etc, each of them was affected hugely. While there was a lot of family bonding and together time that came, with this also came many fears – of illness, of death, of loosing jobs, of reduced earnings, of lost time and more. Also seen is a big rise in number of abuse cases reported of all sorts. And these negatives transcend all walks of life.

The beauty and the beast stand together.

The beauty is that the pandemic brought back to life coping mechanisms in form of family bonding for many. Kids got the desired attention at home from both parents, many of the elderly living alone in their respective homes or those in assisted living centres came back together again, the importance of being together as a family was heightened. As everybody worked / studied from home, a new respect and understanding came by. Home chores got equally divided and we did see many a memes around this. For many, yes, this is the scene, a beautiful scene.

While we understood the importance of home, there also were reported increased instances of abuse of different forms. Culturally, this is something for all of us to ponder upon. These existed earlier, however, the numbers grew as we got free-er, or is it that this is an expression of frustration, frustration of supressed emotions, unmet needs or those not recognised. These are grave issues and need to be looked at and healed. Healed not just from a perspective of the pandemic, but because this is reflective of habits of a social group. This social group needs to first address and recognise the ‘needs’ – personal needs as well as social needs that overlap and are suppressed. This suppression creates a cacophony of frustrations expressed illicitly or in a fashion not acceptable in the realms of decency. Sex based discriminations, abuse and violence, other forms of domestic violence towards kids and elders, reflect a need to restructure the basics of our social existence. Add to this the economic frustrations. These gaps in the social existence call for a mental re-orientation and a dire need to recreate a mental wellness paradigm. This re-orientation cannot happen by enforcement of law but rather through a movement of ‘wellbeing’ of the body, mind and heart.

There are the fears, of course, which are omnipresent otherwise but brought forth with force because of the pandemic. These fears are well grounded in the need for survival and living. Daily wagers were the most affected as without savings they were at loss for covering even the basic necessities of life like food and shelter. Thousands lost jobs. Many businesses, big and small, came to a nought. Of course, there were a few that did well. Students had to change the way of studying as well as interacting. Many lost time and means to study because either there was no data connection, or devices to connect or the schools lacked the infra. As everything came to a rude standstill because of the lockdowns, our competitive spirits continued to thrive. Every walk of life has a story of fear and also how these were overcome. These fears, also found the right expression in the philanthropic actions of many members of the society who reached out to the others for support and in support of some basic needs. But a philanthropic expression is not enough. There is a much needed mechanism for coping, which needs to be enabled for each individual.

Many people were of course unable to deal with these stresses. As daily living became difficult, they succumbed to suicides, to mental disorders of anxiety and depression giving in to these pressure and stress they faced in their day-today life. The incidence of suicides and disorders have gone up significantly per some local studies conducted recently across various states. Fear of the disease also took a toll. A pointer to the rising requirement for a mental and emotional support infrastructure.

On the other hand, there are the healthcare workers who only got busier with their hands over full given the pandemic’s healthcare needs. Tending to the growing load of covid patients. Saving many loosing some. And carrying the load of those who they couldn’t save, along with the loneliness of staying away from their loved ones so as not to give them infections, carrying the burden of being overworked and much more. The effects of these will be telling in the long run.

In step with the healthcare workers were the other frontline people, the policemen, the municipal workers, those ensuring the availability of essential services, and many others engaged to ensure that others were well protected and provided for. And they also continue to carry the burden of carrying infections back home or the stress of the working conditions.

Amongst this pandemic, in a country where the mental health quotient wasn’t even recognised, today everyone is feeling the pinch of this. Each one of us is forced to sit up and recognise this aspect, whether faced by our fears, or the changed way of living in a new reality, be it the fears or the frustrations.

The industry needs to perk up, recognise the shift and the need and step in with solutions. Of course, in the recent times one has seen increased funding for the mental health platforms but much more is needed, and proactively so, so as to cover the gap that exists. Sustainable models need to be developed, covering the entire spectrum of economic classes to enable a mentally healthy nation.

--Issue 53--

Author Bio

Gurrit K Sethi

Gurrit K Sethi, Strategic Advisor for Global Health Services, Global Strategic Analysis, contributes to healthcare by helping providers build and better business efficiencies and concept development, also strives to contribute socially through the Swiss Foundation, Global Challenges Forum as Strategic Advisor, through conception of sustainable health initiatives. She started her career from the shop floor working her way up to lead different healthcare businesses in different domains and verticals. Her significant achievements have been in bringing to life different SMEs and SBUs signifying a change in the Indian healthcare scenarios, as the opportunity paved the way along the healthcare growth curve in the country. With over 20 years in healthcare under her belt, she has carried transformational changes in the projects she has led, four of those being early stage start-ups. Gurrit is an avid traveller and voracious reader of varied genres, attributes which she says, provide her with incisive insights about people and systems and what drives them.

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