Anxiety, Depression on the Rise in Assam Due to Pandemic | Assam News

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Anxiety, Depression on the Rise in Assam Due to Pandemic

Barasha Das | November 08, 2020 13:39 hrs

Over 40,000 instances of psychological counselling conducted by government agencies alone


The coronavirus pandemic has not just impacted the physical health of people, but the unprecedented circumstances and the related issues like migration, job loss, financial crisis, and death have severely impacted the mental health of many. Over the months, many cases of depression and suicide have been reported across the country, and posts containing positive motivational messages to the needy have been seen on different social media platforms from time to time. 


Mental health has been gaining importance over the last couple of years. However, it has taken a crucial space with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. Constant efforts are being made by governments and experts alike to raise awareness about mental health.


The government of Assam has been garnering applause for the different initiatives and services it has undertaken to combat all aspects of the pandemic. Amongst these is its initiative to not just spread awareness but to provide easy counselling and treatment to the people suffering from mental issues. 


A dedicated service for such cases was incorporated in the 104 Sarathi helpline of the health department back in April. The helpline, managed and operated by Piramal Swasthya, has been providing telephonic consultation on addiction, suicidal/homicidal thoughts and tendencies, sexual harassment, domestic violence, psychotic episodes, self-harm behaviour, schizophrenia, depression, anxiety and other psychological aspects through a team of trained and qualified counsellors, clinical psychologists and psychiatrists. Patients across all age groups from both rural and urban Assam have reportedly called seeking help, especially those with no or limited access to health facilities. 


Data provided by National Health Mission (NHM) Assam shows that within seven months of its launch, specialists have advised over 2,136 people on stress-related problems, depression, social stigma, anxiety disorder, addiction problems, insomnia, suicidal tendencies, family issues, psycho-sexual problem etc. Some have also been referred for consultation and treatment at secondary and tertiary medical institutions. 


Apart from the open helpline, the Assam government has also been providing counselling to all people who have contracted the virus. 


Another government of Assam initiative in collaboration with NHM, called MONON,  was started on 13th June last. About 406 mental health professionals from both government and private sectors are associated with the initiative under the guidance of Dr. Mythili Hazarika, Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology in Gauhati Medical College & Hospital (GMCH).


Till 1st November last, mental health data of 92,819 people were recorded and 42,455 have been counselled and provided necessary treatment. Of these, 54 people are found to have had suicidal tendencies.


Under the MONON initiative, phone calls are made to Covid positive patients and necessary support related to mental stress is provided. Follow-up counselling sessions and treatment are also provided where necessary. 


A large percentage of patients who have contracted the virus reported of stress due to the disease. A total of 3,270 people suffered from depression and anxiety due to financial insecurities. Social stigma also has been a major cause of effecting many infected patients. 


The pandemic saw many people losing their jobs and having to migrate back to their native places. Many were affected by the lack of proper food supply, mostly during the lockdown. Also, career concerns have been the cause of anxiety for hundreds. 


Across the state, many families have seen rising conflicts mostly during the confinement period of the lockdown. As many as 856 people were counselled to overcome family-related issues and 173 reported family conflicts.


And these are the records of only those patients who have sought psychological help through the government agencies. There are also many being counselled in private clinics. Reportedly, chambers of psychologists and psychiatrists have seen the largest crowds after the lockdown.
Dr. Mythili Hazarika, who is heading MONON told G Plus, “The unpredictable nature of the virus has created insecurity and anxiety amongst the people. Its ever-changing nature has concerned all and created panic.”


“Mental well being is very important. Unnecessary anxiety in anticipation of getting infected by a disease has become a hurdle for many. Such anxieties have led to people not seeking medical help and taking medicines thinking that they might be tested positive. The symptoms, if any, might be of any other illness and treatment is a must. The hormonal changes and chemical imbalance triggered by anxiety creates more difficulties. We should do everything to at least control the mental issues incurred due to the pandemic, if not the physical part. Negative thoughts must be controlled under all circumstances. Prevention is the key,” she added.


Hardeep Singh Bambrah, General Manager of Piramal Swasthya heading the northeast region said, “It is important for people to take care of their mental health as much as they take care of their physical health. We have seen that mental health cases are rising in the country and it is no different in Assam. The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted the normal way of functioning and this helpline has been a boon to the people of Assam to seek professional mental health advice and support, without any charge. The team has worked relentlessly to make this a success.” 

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