Pandemic triggers sharp rise in cases of depression


The steep rise in COVID-19 infections has raised anxiety levels among many persons. Psychiatrists say they are seeing more people with depression and anxiety, while every psychiatric disorder is worsening in the midst of the second wave of the pandemic.

The number of persons testing positive for COVID-19 in the State has been increasing daily. Simultaneously, there are growing concerns on bed availability and oxygen supply. How the fresh wave of infections has been impacting the mental health of people and the need to seek help is of equal importance, say doctors.

โ€œWe are seeing a lot of people with anxiety, palpitation, panic disorder and depression. With a lot of children testing positive for COVID-19, the anxiety levels have increased among parents too, especially in nuclear families. So, in the first wave, there was the fear of the unknown. Now, in the second wave, there is fear of the known,โ€ said Lakshmi Vijayakumar, psychiatrist and founder of Sneha suicide prevention centre. She pointed out that the second wave was traumatic, and there was a sense of emotional fatigue among people.

The anxiety was definitely more now, P. Poorna Chandrika, director of Institute of Mental Health, said. โ€œIn the first wave, the stigma associated with COVID-19 was high but it has reduced now. There is a definite increase in anxiety levels. Some persons are experiencing aggravation of symptoms of their already diagnosed psychiatric disorders,โ€ she added.

All pre-existing conditions such as depression, anxiety, psychosis, OCD and panic disorder were getting worse, said R. Thara, vice-chairperson of Schizophrenia Research Foundation.

โ€œMany are unable to see doctors face to face as teleconsultations are being taken up. Many are unable to do therapies that need face to face interactions,โ€ she said.

โ€œAs cases dipped from November to January, people were looking forward to normalcy. There was some hope in peopleโ€™s minds. All that has come dashing to the ground. There is desolation and despair and people are feeling helpless. They are seeing lack of beds, oxygen and vaccines all around. This despair, sense of hopelessness and fear is more now as there is uncertainty around,โ€ she added.

She said that people should talk to counsellors or friends and seek support for their mental health needs.

Dr. Lakshmi Vijayakumar said the number of persons seeking help through calls had increased exponentially.

โ€œPeople should not panic unnecessarily. We have clear cut guidelines and treatment protocols for COVID-19. We need to understand that cases are spreading faster than the first wave, and that there are enough treatment protocols to handle,โ€ she said.

Doctors called for limiting exposure to media could help in reducing anxiety levels. โ€œWatch television news once a day or read the newspaper once a day,โ€ she said.

Persons who are in need of support/counselling can call the Institute of Mental Health at 044-26425585.

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