Shradha Gadtaula, 28 July
Mental health has been a pre-existing concealed plight because of stigma related to this. According to WHO, mental health is a state of welfare in which an individual understands his/her self potential, can get through with the stresses of life, can work effectively, and is capable to contribute to his/her community (WHO, 2018). From the survey three years ago, it showed that 37% of the population suffered from some kind of mental health problem in Nepal. But a new survey showed that the COVID-19 and lockdown have intensified the problem where a quarter of those that were surveyed said that they felt restless, fearful, anxious, and worried all the time. As per the Nepal Police, since the beginning of the lockdown on March 24, a total of 1,647 cases of suicide were filed as of June 27, with an average of 18 suicides per day since the implementation of lockdown (Arjun Poudel, 2020). The COVID-19 pandemic and nationwide lockdown has taken a toll on an individual’s mental health, triggered new issues, and intensified the existing problems.
Social Stigma caused by the Pandemic
Globally, the COVID-19 pandemic has enormously affected the socio-economic and mental health status of people due to the lockdown and the uncertainty of the virus’ eradication in the future. Covid-19 that originated from Wuhan, China, has spread in 213 countries and territories around the world. As yet, the latest data retrieved from World Meter on 28th July 2020 shows that the total number of COVID-19 cases globally has reached up to 1,67,64,791 causing the death of 6,59,786 with the recovery of 10,318,139people (WHO). The long term impact of COVID-19 seems to be more on mental than physical health. It has brought an abundant amount of potent aggravation by removing the existing resources that they used to cope with which may be; get-together with friends, family, and relatives, traveling among others. The stigma of the virus has been more dangerous than the virus itself as those who are suspected of having it has been disgraced and treated as an outsider. The pandemic has provoked social stigma and discriminatory behavior to certain ethnic groups as well as anyone that is perceived to have the virus. Blaming and shaming certain groups of people for a pandemic enhances the negative mental effect in the person with the disease as well as their caregivers.
Lockdown for 4 months had been used as a measure to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Nepal. With the widespread lifting of the lockdown on July 21, there are still some exceptions. Lockdown due to the pandemic has not only affected physically but also economically. Not only the poor and marginalized but the entrepreneurs; due to the loss of money and pressures to repay bank loans, daily wagers and small-scale workers living in rent, and the youths who are the working students and staying in Kathmandu has been tremendously affected by the pandemic. Globally, the socio-economic stress of the pandemic has been felt as a result large number of psychological distress and suicides has spiked. With the spread of the COVID-19, suicide is likely to be a major concern as the pandemic leaves behind a long-lasting effect on the population, economy, and the vulnerable people.
Facts Related to Suicide
A study by the well-trust and researchers affiliated with the American Academy of Family Physicians found that the suicide and substance abuse-related problems are likely to be increased caused by COVID-19 pandemic (Arjun Poudel, 2020). With the impact in the economy, an increase in suicide triggered by COVID-19 is most likely to transpire. There have been intermittent reports of people suffering from loneliness, desperation due to loss of jobs and businesses, and domestic violence amid the pandemic lockdown.
The overall social, economic, psychological well-being of Nepalese have been affected by the pandemic. The social distancing, quarantine, and isolation have disrupted the normal schedule and also disrupted the normal bereavement process of families. It has caused an economic downturn which has put financial pressure in lots of families which may increase abuse, conflict, depression, and domestic violence. For an uncertain time, the impact caused by COVID-19 lockdown can be a huge challenge where the coping strategies, mental health intervention, and awareness should be emphasized and addressed.
Stress during the Pandemic can Cause:
- Fear and worry about your health and your loved ones, financial situations, and jobs.
- Sadness, anger, or frustration because friends or loved ones have fears of getting the disease from you, even though you are cleared to be around others.
- Changes in the pattern of sleeping and eating.
- Difficulty in concentrating.
- Increase in the use of alcohol, tobacco, and other substances.
- Intensification of chronic health problems.
- Intensification of mental health problems.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the following are some of the healthy ways to cope from the stress caused by pandemic:
- Realize what to do if you are sick and concerned about COVID-19.
- Know when and how to get treatment; including support services and also counseling therapy.
- Take a break from the news related to the cases of COVID-19 as repeatedly hearing about pandemic can be stressful.
- Take care of your body; try to eat healthily, exercise, and meditate regularly.
- Connect with others; friends and families.
- Take care of your emotional health.
Centre for Mental Health and Counseling Nepal
Toll-free: 16600185080, Hotline: 1145
Toll-free number: 16600102005
(The writer is a student of Psychology, Masters Program at Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu )