Moneycontrol
Last Updated : Jun 02, 2020 03:27 PM IST | Source: Moneycontrol.com

Coronavirus impact on mental health: This helpline got 45,000 calls in 60 days

Experts at Mpower said this could be the tip of the iceberg as India stares at a mental health crisis post- COVID-19.

Representative image
Representative image

Many Indians stuck at home due to lockdown are experiencing bouts of

anxiety and sensing a rise in frustration levels. With their lives experiencing a never-before-seen disruption, it is inevitable that they would get jittery and anxious thinking about the future.

Stuck in Bengaluru, *Rahul, 30, wants to go back to his home in Mumbai. The uncertainty regarding travel due to the lockdown is making him anxious, which led him to seek help by calling BMC-Mpower 1on1 helpline.

Just like Rahul, 73-year old *Pratap is frustrated due to the lockdown and dialled the helpline number 1800-120-820050 to vent out his frustration about how things are more difficult for a senior citizen in the current situation.

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Mpower, which is an Aditya Birla Education Trust initiative to address mental healthcare gaps in India, joined hands with the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) in April to launch BMC-Mpower 1on1.

In just two months,  the helpline has received around 45,000 calls, averaging about 750 calls a day, or 30 per hour.

Experts at Mpower said this could be the tip of the iceberg as India stares at a mental health crisis post- COVID-19.

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"Before coronavirus outbreak, we were seeing cases of anxiety, depression, panic attacks and now coronavirus has added to their negativity. People are worried about their jobs, parents, children, etc," said Dr Sapna Bangar, Psychiatrist & Head, Mpower - The Centre.

She said the situation has affected different age groups in different ways.

"For example, those who suffer from OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) it has exacerbated their symptoms. Children with neurodevelopmental disorders, lack of routine and lack of structure, has definitely affected them. There are behavioural issues and tantrums amid children. But there’s an interesting aspect which we have noticed is of children who had school phobia and exam fear, they are thriving in this environment," she added.

But when it comes to adults, they have been affected the most, said Bangar.

"Parents especially are struggling the most. At the centre, we get a lot of calls regarding how to handle children, how to keep them occupied. This change in environment is affecting everyone. We see a lot of marital problems coming up as well," she added.

When it comes to the helpline, 52 percent calls were around anxiety issues and 22 percent were for isolation and adjustment issues in the last two months.

As for calls regarding depression and sleep related issues, the helpline received around 11 percent and five percent calls respectively. Around four percent calls were for exacerbation of previous mental health concerns.

Men more anxious?

The helpline saw a higher number of male callers at 69 percent compared to female callers at 31 percent.

Does this mean men are more prone to mental health issues in times of COVID-19? Not really.

According to Bangar, “in India, the help seeking behaviour is different. Women are struggling more in this time of crisis due to the added pressure of no house help but the statistics will always say that more male seek help. The behviour of seeking help is yet to catch up.”

One interesting aspect Bangar pointed out is that many people are looking forward to come and meet therapists as they feel safer that way.

"People are having privacy issues at home. Plus, weak internet connectivity or call drops lead to more frustration," she said.

As for her, she said that as a psychiatrist, while ease of working from home is convenient, psychiatry has its charm of meeting someone face to face.

"On a virtual platform, non-verbal cues are more likely to be missed. I have to depend more on the client telling me on what's happening. In a session, even silences talk and you can read that but online clients can easily hide it," she said.

Bangar said it is also important to do things at home to reduce stress especially in the current times.

Tips to feel better

She shared a few tips to reduce stress while you are stuck at home:

- Having a routine helps especially for children as it gives a structure to their day.

- Get up and get dressed for work even while working from home.

- Me time is important. Spend 15 minutes to half an hour doing something that you enjoy like reading, cooking, listening to music and do it on a daily basis.

"Some people are going back to old hobbies and some are opting for new hobbies. Eating healthy, sleeping well, exercising and connecting with people are also important. Let it be physical distance and not social distance," she said.

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First Published on Jun 2, 2020 03:14 pm

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