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Expert Advice on How to Deal with Mental Health During the COVID-19 Pandemic

While the Corona outbreak in the country is at its peak, it is rather difficult for some people to maintain their sanity during these testing times. It is natural for anyone to feel elevated levels of depression and anxiety during a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly due to social isolation. Physicians and other frontline health care workers are especially vulnerable to detrimental mental health outcomes when they try to reconcile the responsibility of caring for patients with questions for their own health and well-being.

The lockdown days and the impact of COVID-19 have been adverse on us, and some of you might feel both physically and mentally exhausted. However, a few of us would criticize for raising mental health issues since it is not that consequential for them. We say you block out those people from your lives, pronto, and start taking care of yourself mentally!

A Weekend Read: Conversation with Dr. Sushil Kherada about Mental Health During COVID-19 in Udaipur

These times are depressing for sure, so we got in touch with a mental health expert, Dr. Sushil Kherada. He is a senior professor and head of the department in RNT Medical college, department of psychiatry, and we connected with him live on our platform. Let’s hear out the experts’ thoughts on the issue of mental health among the people.

People have different perceptions about mental health and don’t tend to give it much importance. What are your thoughts on the same, and what can you tell us about mental health?

“A healthy body comes with a healthy mind, and vice versa”, says Dr. Sushil when asked about the burgeoning issue of mental health during the pandemic in our country. There is a chemical reaction in your body to every negative thought you have, and studies have found that poor mental health conditions also lead to deadly diseases such as Cancer. A person cannot be productive or, say, can actively contribute to the lifestyle if he or she is not mentally healthy, which is why it is quite unfortunate that people don’t give much importance to mental health.

Sadly, people who are experiencing stress or exhaustion often don’t recognize the reason behind their inability to perform the mundane tasks and are afraid of taking help from a Mental Health Expert. Only 25-30% of the total number of people experiencing mental health issues tend to reach expert help. The Indian society calls mental health patients “Insane” or “Mad”, which makes it hard for them to cope with their issues.

How many people do you think are aware of the issue or concept of Mental Health in Udaipur?

People experiencing fever or cough would consult their physician immediately, but those undergoing mental health issues would not be that enthusiastic about reaching a Mental Health Expert. 75% of individuals do not tend to reach for mental care or help due to society’s preconceived notions about the same. It is especially important to bridge the gap between the mental health patients and get the right help so that more and more patients can get the right treatment in our city and beyond. This can only happen if people start accepting that poor mental health also makes a person unfit or sick.

People have lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 Pandemic; they have to hassle for fulfilling even the mundane or daily chores, affecting their mental health. So, how do you suggest a common man can cope with the current situation?

Social media is full of news about the Coronavirus, and in today’s age, news travels faster on social media than any other platform. “I would call the current situation an Infodemic rather than Pandemic because there is a flood of both accurate and inaccurate information on the social media platforms, which is a major cause of panic among the masses”, says Dr. Kherada. Media plays an important role in keeping the population sane by forwarding positive and accurate news to avoid fear and fallacy. Boredom, frustration, irritation, hopelessness, isolation, anxiety, depression, OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), suicide, etc., are some reactions that are commonly identified in people due to confinement in their homes during the lockdown.

Many patients suffering from Coronavirus are in home isolation, and their family is afraid to go near them, so how do you suggest overcoming this fear and panic?

Staying positive should be the topmost priority to gain strength to overcome this phase. Following the right information and taking the necessary precautions will help people to overcome the fear. “Maintain Social Distancing, not Emotional Distancing. Be emotionally available, talk to your friends, family members, neighbours, etc. and be in touch with them virtually”, says Dr. Sushil. Set a routine, try out new things, indulge yourself with your hobbies, and do yoga or exercise to keep yourself busy. It will help you take away your mind from the rising fear and panic in the country. Love and compassion towards the patients and each other are the keys to fighting this pandemic and keeping you mentally fit and healthy.

What impact do you think the COVID-19 Pandemic would have on us in the future? Can it create more and new mental health issues in the near future?

A key to overcome mental illness is to prepare the person to fight upcoming challenges effectively. Thus, we need to prepare ourselves to fight these issues with patience and empathy. “The current phase is a test for us to become a better citizen, a better person for our family and close ones. So, let’s utilize this time to change your life for the better”, says Dr. Sushil.

How can students and employees working from home overcome the feeling of helplessness and depression and be mentally fit?

People often say that “I am busy and don’t have time for any additional things”, so this is your time to do what you love. Be it a hobby or a new thing that you wanted to learn for a long time but couldn’t get time to do so, this is your chance to actually practice those things.

How to deal with anxiety and procrastination?

There are some relaxation exercises that you can practice to reduce anxiety. Changing our mindset can be a great help to fight anxiety.

Inner peace and motivation are low during the time of lockdown. What do you suggest our viewers can do to cope with the same?

Lack of spiritual values can be a factor that leads to a lack of inner peace. Meditation and indulging yourself in positive activities can be helpful to motivate yourself. Reducing anger, balancing your life, and not feeling competitive towards your peers can help you gain inner peace.

Coming to an end to our conversation with Dr. Sushil, the foremost thing we have learnt is to reduce our fear and panic caused by COVID-19 by being positive and hopeful. The conversation has been very enlightening and valuable for people who are experiencing mental health issues. Hope you find the suggestions and recommendations helpful, and start prioritizing your mental health first!