Inability to mourn with family members or cope with grief alone due to Covid constraints has led to an increase in cases of depression, anxiety, insomnia and other mental health disorders among people in Delhi who have been affected directly or indirectly by the pandemic, experts said.
Several hospitals and clinics in the national capital are registering a spike in the number of patients complaining of symptoms related to pyschological ailments triggered by post-traumatic stress, they said. Delhi had reeled under a brutal second wave of the pandemic which claimed a massive number of lives daily, with the oxygen supply shortage issue at various hospitals, having added to the woes.
Hospital premises and crematoriums had witnessed distressful scenes, with grieving family members, many in full PPE kits, trying to come to terms with the loss of their loved ones. Medical experts in Delhi concurred that the family members were unable to grieve together after losing their dear ones to Covid due to safety constraints and social distancing norms.
The second wave, in many cases, saw the whole family testing positive for coronavirus, and even after death, they couldn't conduct last rites, leading to sedimentation of grief inside that triggers mental health disorders, they said. In several cases, even though there were no fatalities in the families, many people lost their friends, acquaintances or someone they knew closely, or they survived with great difficulty, adding to their mental stress, doctors said on Sunday which coincided with the PTSD (Post-traumatic Stress Disorder) Awareness Day.
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"Sadness, isolation, grief of fear of losing loved ones, loss of income and decreasing socialisation are exacerbating mental health conditions. OPD footfall has increased by 30-40 per cent since the surge in cases," said Manish Jain, consultant, psychiatry department at BLK Hospital here. People with pre-existing mental health issues are also more vulnerable to substance and impulsive behaviours during a pandemic. Restriction in lifestyles and fear of COVID-19, both have started taking a toll on their mental health, he said.
Dr Sameer Malhotra, director and head, department of mental health and behavioral sciences, Max Super Speciality Hospital, Saket said, "There's a definite rise in the cases of anxiety and depression seen across the population during the COVID-19 pandemic". Whereas there has been significantly high numbers registered after the second wave, the hospital have seen many people coming to terms with grief after having lost their family members, and suffered depression and significant anxiety due to it, he said.
But, people are looking for relief from such mental disorders through not just allopathy but homeopathy too. Doctors at Delhi's Dr Kalyan Banerjee's Clinic, which sees rush even on regular days, are witnessing a significant rise in patients reporting with psychological and mental health conditions.
The clinic has seen a 40 per cent spike in the number of patients complaining of symptoms related to mental health. About 2,500 prescriptions every month, as opposed to 1,750 prescriptions per month in the pre-pandemic era, are being given to manage symptoms like anxiety, depression, panic attacks, insomnia, and other related symptoms, doctors said. Patients of mental health disorders whose condition had improved to the extent that it required no medicines, have begun to experience relapses, they said.
Patients who had never experienced any mental health issues in the past are also coming to the clinic complaining of vague, but significant symptoms like a feeling of being tired all the time, inability to fall asleep, lack of appetite, irritability, inability to focus on work and other issues, said experts at the clinic, founded by Padma Shri Dr Kalyan Banerjee. Many of these patients have been directly affected by COVID-19, where they or someone close contracted the infection, or they knew someone who has passed away due to coronavirus, doctors said.
"India along with most countries in the world, has seen a spike in mental health cases during this pandemic. A section of the patients are turning to homeopathy because they are uncomfortable taking psychiatric medicines which may be difficult to give up," Banerjee said. Patients who are personally or professionally unaffected by the disease or by the lockdown, are also not being spared. The most important aspect in these cases are the physical presence of friends and loved ones, but due to Covid norms, people unable to get together or channelise grief, the doctor said.Some other reasons that could trigger such disorders include fear of long-term effects of COVID-19 and the pervasive negativity around us today, he added. Dr Kushal Banerjee, senior homeopath at the clinic said, "A major cause behind the rise in numbers of patients experiencing psychological distress and post-traumatic stress is that our mechanisms for coping with irreplaceable loss are either failing or not being allowed to kick in due to restrictions on our movements, activities, and interactions. This in turn has made it imperative that they seek professional help and guidance."