The Covid-19 pandemic is having profound mental health consequences for many people. Several public surveys have shown substantial increases in symptoms of anxiety and depression associated with Covid-19. Individuals with pre-existing mental health problems may be most vulnerable during these times. Concerns have been expressed that, at their most extreme, these consequences could manifest as increased suicide rates. There has been disturbing news coming in people committing suicide because they tested positive for Covid-19.
The suicide causalities may be due to fear of Covid-19 infection, financial crisis, loneliness, social boycott and pressure to be under quarantine, being Covid-19 positive, Covid-19 work-related stress, inability to go back home due to lockdown, unavailability of alcohol etc. Further, a lot of people in unsafe homes related to domestic violence or abuse may end up spending too much time together which might aggravate their condition. Being stuck in a home with incompatible family members can flare up interpersonal distress and lead to mental health problems. Added to this are worries about job security, financial stress and uncertainties of the future which can all lead to hopelessness and suicidal thoughts.
How to take care of your mental health
- If you are someone who is already undertreatment for preexisting mental or physical health problems, then make sure that you are regular with your prescription. Do not stop medication without permission from your doctor.
- If you are someone receiving therapy for mental health difficulties, continue with therapy through online modes.
- Maintain regular routine. Wake early, eat on time and sleep on time. Because of the lockdown/quarantine, it is easy to lose track of time. Even if you are going nowhere, make sure that you get dressed in the morning before you start your work from home or any other routine. This will help you get set for your day and encourage self-care.
- Remember to eat well, include nutritious food, and stay hydrated.
- Get good rest and sleep well. Avoid sleeping in the noon if it disturbs your night sleep.
- Make time for exercise. If you cannot go out for walk, runs, then perform simple exercises or yoga moves at home.
- Avoid excessive TV, mobile usage, and find something productive to do. Perhaps you can learn a new hobby? If you have plenty of time on hands, you could use it to learn new skills, clean the attic, garden, etc.
- Indulge in activities you enjoy and that help you relax, such as playing with pets, gardening, cooking, mediation, etc.
- Avoid too much of negative news on TV. Keep yourself updated from reliable sources, and avoid checking news constantly.
- Stay connected with family and friends. Even if you cannot meet them personally, you can still pick up your phone and speak to them.
- Go spiritual. Connect with your God or yourself. Read your holy books. Meditate, pray in silence. Let the higher power take charge.
- If you are in an unhealthy environment, connect with social workers for help.
What can you do about the pandemic?
While, there are certain things in our control, and there are some things which are not in our control. Sometimes, it is best to accept what we cannot change, and work on those that we can change. It is important to remember that for most people, Covid-19 will pass off like a regular flu with minor symptoms, and even for those who require hospitalization, it is not always life threating. Do what you can do to stay safe. Wear mask, practice hand hygiene, social distancing and follow the protocols issued by the government.
What to do if you have thoughts of harming yourself
Remember that these thoughts are temporary and will pass away, however, if you act on these impulses, then it becomes a permanent loss of your life. Most people who attempt suicide regret it. Plus, it denies them a chance to overcome the temporary problem to lead long productive life. It causes immense grief, guilt and pain in the loved ones.
Some tips if you feel you are at risk of having suicidal thoughts
- Remember this: Harming yourself is never the right solution to any problem. Every problem has a solution, we just need to find it. It may take time for the problems to go away or to find the solution, so the current situation is not permanent. Give yourself time for the circumstances to change and for the pain to subside.
- Get rid of any material that may be lethal to you: Get rid of any guns, knives, or dangerous medications if you worry that you might act on suicidal thoughts.
- If you are on antidepressants, mood regulator or antipsychotics, do not stop taking these medication as they maybe the cause of your suicidal thoughts.
- Talk to someone right away, tell them how you feel. It could be your parents, spouse, friends, or colleagues.
- Contact your therapist. If you have never been to a therapy, call any of the helpline numbers.
You should never try to manage suicidal feelings on your own. Professional help and support from loved ones can make it easier to overcome any challenges that are causing suicidal thoughts. There are numerous organizations and support groups that can help you cope with suicidal feelings. They will help you recognize that suicide isn’t the right way to deal with stressful life events. Remember, just like everything else in life, this too shall pass. If you are having stress, anxiety, worries or low mood because of the current situation, there is help available. For example, NIMHANS has a national helpline number for psychosocial and mental health support: 080 461 100 07. Similarly, at state level, DIMHANS has opened helpline numbers recently to address people’s mental health during the pandemic: (0091) 836274 8401, 836274 8402, 836274 8403. There are other support groups where people come together to share their stories during the pandemic and heal. All these are free of cost. Do not hesitate to seek help.