One major impact of the Covid-19 lockdowns will be the effect these will have had on persons with mental health issues. It has been seen in the age of internet based services such as social media, pornography, online gaming, etc., that there has been an inclination among children and the youth to become isolated from society, even their families. Many cases are reported of young people sequestering themselves in their rooms all day and night, living their lives out there to the exclusion of everything else. There is a seductive power in becoming engrossed in a world of their making and choice. Imagine how many people will have been forced to adopt this lifestyle because of the long months of lockdown, especially in the big cities that already suffer from the ‘social distancing’ of anonymity. And it is not just those withdrawing into the net – all the persons used to having an active life outside of home will have suffered considerable psychological trauma.
There have already been reports of increase domestic violence as well as disruption of relationships because of the stresses caused by having to live in the limited space of urban quarters. Parents – mothers in particular – have had to deal with the energy and crankiness of children used to playing outside and being emotionally dependent on friends and school life. In fact, the changed social norms will have left quite a mark on the psyche of the young ones that will require some effort to correct. Their natural fear of the unknown will have been enhanced and could impact on their future life choices.
The fear is that, unless psychologists and their ilk closely examine this phenomenon and come up with workable solutions, the mental health impact on society in general could have long term consequences. One may have noticed how odd it seems today to see movies in which people are not maintaining ‘social distancing’, shaking hands, embracing and so on. This is how circumstances quietly programme the mind. Of course, some good will also come of it, with greater inclination towards hygienic behaviour.
Mental health has always been an issue, but it is becoming even more so in the modern world for a variety of reasons. These include depression and alienation because of isolation resulting from urbanisation, nuclear families, substance abuse, poor self-esteem, sexual and other kinds of violence, lack of general awareness and social support and, mostly, the extreme shortage of psychologists, psychiatrists and hospitals. Where there are facilities available, these are quite expensive and, thus, become available only to the well-off. The consequence is that persons with psychological problems escape the notice of those around them, which often results in extreme incidents like suicides. In too many cases where the symptoms and behaviour is visible to the family, friends and others, the attempt is to conceal the fact, rather than seek assistance because of the social stigma attached. This obviously makes the problem worse and deepens the malaise, despite the fact that in most cases these can be fully treated through counseling or medicine. All of these elements are likely to become enhanced post the pandemic and must be addressed.
It is important for those involved in dealing with mental health issues to raise awareness among the politicians and the common people about the urgent need to establish facilities that can cope with the problem, which even in normal times is enormous. Professional counseling should be made available in schools and communities.