If the lockdown due to coronavirus is bothering you mentally, it’s ok to seek help, even if Indian culture stigmatises mental health issues.
In the current lockdown, where information is available in abundance, but certainty about the future is zero, you are not alone if you feel confused and anxious. You are also not wrong if you worry about your future plans because the Covid-19 disease has now started spreading in India and you cannot be sure how long the lockdown will last.
Those living alone need to be extra careful. After all, the thought of falling sick with no one around to look after us can lead to anxiety and is indeed a scary situation to be in.
Anxious is new ‘normal’
After talking to several therapists for a story I was working on, I have realised that being anxious is the ‘new normal’, because the situation is unprecedented. To cope with this ‘new normal’ it is important to let go of the stigma associated with seeking mental help. It is ok to contact a therapist. It will not only help you survive the long days of working from home during the lockdown, but also give you the much needed mental energy to tackle the onslaught of corona information.
A recent survey by the Indian Psychiatric Society shows a 20 per cent increase in mental illness since the coronavirus outbreak. The therapists I talked to admitted to nearly 50 per cent rise in the number of clients.
Therapists have started calling this anxiousness resulting from the current pandemic ‘corona fear’. Rashi Vidyasagar, founder of The Alternative Story, an online therapy provider, says, “Patients of anxiety and depression have doubled their session hours, but people who did not have such conditions before are now seeing symptoms of anxiety and depression.”
The uncertainty of the lockdown, insecurity regarding jobs and businesses, the impending recession and the physical distance between loved ones are turning out to be some of the key stressors for most people.
Therapists say coronavirus is the latest addition to the list of triggers for people with pre-existing anxiety issues and depression. Most conversations I have had with my friends or colleagues in the past couple of weeks are a reminder to this, with many of them opening up about the nightmare and anxiety that the pandemic has inflicted upon them.
Life at home
While living without parents has its own set of problems, living with them is not easy either. Mumbai-based therapist Shamal Jaykar says, “Now that all family members are present at home at all times, life for youngsters who have not come out yet (queer, gay) or for those with unrevealed addiction like smoking or drinking is more difficult than before.”
Such people find their voices stifled, and with the added stress of being indoors with the family, this is not the best time for them to talk it out either.
For those living away from their families and working from home, activities (like?) of self-care have entered their list of daily chores. Long office hours has only added to the stress, making it difficult for them to keep things normal because not everyone likes playing ‘house’.
If your social circle still stigmatises seeking mental help, then you must try out online mental therapy. Platforms like Type a Thought will provide you with the option of chatting with your therapist. You can also take online sessions via Zoom, WhatsApp or Skype. With the help of these applications, your mental health is nobody else’s business but yours.
Sessions costing between Rs 200 and Rs 2,500 per hour are available online. The National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences has also launched a toll-free number for consultation.
The lockdown has thrown all of us into a crisis. But all is not gloom and doom. A study by scientists at Yale shows that uncertainty helps the brain learn better. So maybe the current uncertainty will help our brains evolve better for the future. But for now, breathe through the chaos and if it gets too difficult, reach out for help… online.
Views are personal.