Covid-19 has caused immeasurable hardships to breadwinners and pushed countless families behind by years, if not decades. There are reports of India’s malnutrition rising due to Covid-19, and the elderly and our children suffered the biggest collateral damage.
Covid-19 has caused immeasurable hardships to breadwinners and pushed countless families behind by years, if not decades. There are reports of India’s malnutrition rising due to Covid-19, and the elderly and our children suffered the biggest collateral damage. This pandemic has forced people to be confined in their homes, and it has taken many 1.5 lac lives. It has also affected majorly on their health, both physically and mentally. The mental health survey (shorturl.at/ftNW4) was conducted by the think tank, Health Parliament on the mental wellbeing of our students with 461 students and 15 psychologists/ counsellors across 27 states during the month of October-November 2020 during this pandemic. This study revealed that 99% of the participants had one or more issues related to mental health. And 76% of participants who sought medical help for the same were women. Although the prevalence of mental health issues was almost the same among males and females, the study results show that females majorly sought assistance. This could be due to gender-based stigma as the society is conditioned to visualize men as the stronger gender in terms of expression of emotions.
The study further revealed that disturbed sleeping patterns (29%) and loss of interest in performing tasks (26%) were the most common issues faced by the students. The students also identified weight gain and increased screen time as the health issues during the pandemic. Among the behaviour issues faced by students were reduced motivation to study (20.71%), reduced concentration (15.27%), stress (14.93%), and mood swings (12.64%). For elderly – surgeries have been delayed, regular treatment stopped, and the old people are unable to move out. This has made them aloof, due to which many have slipped into depression, which has aggravated their health issues.
Mental health issues have been existing and according to reports, 10 percent of India’s population suffer from one mental health issue or the other. This pandemic has aggravated the problem. Moreover, people fear to talk about this issue as many consider mental health as taboo and do not want to talk about it to anyone. Also, the mental health facilities and psychiatrists are not available as per the needs of the population. According to WHO, there are only 3633 psychiatrists and 848 psychologists in India. Though, this data may not be updated, but the reality is, that we have acute shortage of mental health professionals.
The incidence of mental health crisis has been on the rise since Jan 2020 due to Covid-19. Students being confined to their homes, with classes moving online, and with no provision for outdoor sports, or meeting up with friends have affected almost every student. Students with practical-based subjects in their curriculum, which requires facilities like laboratories, field visits, clinics, etc. suffered majorly on academic grounds due to the closure of the educational institutes. In the study, 82% of students expressed most of the health and behavioural issues they faced during the pandemic was due to academic loss. The stigma associated with COVID-19 and the fear of being exposed to Covid (60%) were also a leading reason for stress among the students. The condition may be worse for those homes which are small and with no provision of the internet or multiple smart devices. Imagine, a one-room apartment or house with three or more family members; how can one attend classes uninterrupted, or families having more than one child, and each needs to attend classes online on separate devices! Things are more serious than we can imagine!
This study does a deep dive into understanding the situation of our students and their issues. It also revealed that only 1% of the participants did not face any stress or issues related to their behaviour or health.
It is high time that the government comes out with some guidelines for our children to tackle mental wellbeing and sensitise them about this issue. The study also states that every 1 in 7 persons was unaware of the measures available to tackle this situation. We all know there is a stigma attached to the mental health and people fear coming open and discussing mental health issues, and 81% of students agreed that there is a stigma attached to mental health in our country. We need to sensitise our children and their guardians that mental health issues are the same as any other physical health issue and need to be addressed without delay. We should encourage them to be vocal about it and discuss it with their family or friends or the person who is closed to them. This will help them tackle such situations and keep them away from slipping into depression and harming themselves.
The government/policymakers should consider this a priority and develop policies that would help our children tackle such situations. Our children are the future of our nation, and we cannot just let them face this mental health issue. This pandemic has made people feel very lonely, especially our elders, and we need to work on the geriatric care policy for our elderly.
India needs a dedicated minister for public health and digital health
Considering the situation around, and that the Covid-19 and it’s after effects are here to linger for quite some time, it is important that the government considers to have a dedicated Public Health Minister. Countries like Vietnam and Taiwan, despite being close to China were able to tackle Covid-19 very well and it resulted in fewer deaths in Taiwan.
We have come with two vaccines Covishield and Covaxin, to fight Covid-19, but we need to have a proper plan of action in place to tackle the situations. God forbid, there is an issue with the vaccine. We need to have a dedicated minister to deal with public health. We need a dedicated team who looks after this situation and is prepared to handle and provide solutions like tracking patients and post-launch surveillance for side effects.
UAE is the first country in the world to have a dedicated minister for AI. India can be the 1st to have a dedicated, well-experienced technologist as the Minister of State for Public Health & Digital Health.
We, too, are moving digitally like the world, and the vision of our PM for NDHM speaks volumes. To ensure that we succeed, India needs a dedicated minister of state for Public Health & Digital Health.
Ms. Mevish P. Vaishnav works in the area of policy and advocacy at Health Parliament, a Think – Tank dedicated to health policy and reform. Dr. Himadri Bisht works as a Research Associate at Health Parliament
(DISCLAIMER: The views expressed are solely of the author and ETHealthworld.com does not necessarily subscribe to it. ETHealthworld.com shall not be responsible for any damage caused to any person/organisation directly or indirectly.)