Coronavirus & Mental Health: Ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic Leads to Growing Suicide Cases in India
10:07 GMT 10.09.2021 (Updated: 10:14 GMT 11.09.2021)
The World Health Organisation (WHO) states that more than 700,000 people die by suicide every year, which is one person every 40 seconds. This global phenomenon is preventable according to doctors, however, in India there is still a lack of awareness about mental health. Since 2003, 10 September has been observed as World Suicide Prevention Day.
The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has drastically changed people's lives: from the fear of contracting the virus to the pain of losing a loved one, the impact is not just physical but mental too. According to mental health experts, the number of suicide cases has also increased since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.
A report by the International Journal of Mental Health Systems
pointed out that "there were online news media reports of 369 cases of suicides and attempted suicides during [the] COVID lockdown vs 220 reports in 2019". The report pointed out that there was a 67.7 percent increase in online news media reports of suicidal behaviour during this period.
"Mental health issues have increased during this period due to the social and economic impact of the lockdown and the economic slowdown, social isolation, work from home, among other things. Second, we need to remember that the COVID infection itself leads to neuropsychological symptoms. There are studies that show that 40 to 50% of people will show varying degrees of mental health issues within 3 to 4 months of having a COVID infection", Dr Malik Merchant, Consultant Psychiatrist from the Wockhardt Hospital told Sputnik.
Dr Merchant also noted that suicide rates are on the rise in India and it is one of the leading causes of death among the younger population.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) also stated that many suicide cases come up during a crisis like the coronavirus pandemic. Experts additionally compared such trends with the increased suicide death rates seen during previous health crises, like MERS and SARS outbreaks.
What's Led to the Increase in Suicides?
According to the WHO, suicide is emerging as the most serious public health issue in India, and those aged 15-29, the elderly, and people with special needs are most vulnerable.
Where India Stands?
The World Health Organisation (WHO) revealed that 7.5 percent of the Indian population suffers from some form of mental disorder. Mental illnesses constitute one-sixth of all health-related disorders and India accounts for nearly 15% of the global mental, neurological, and substance abuse disorder burden. The WHO also noted that there is a huge shortage of psychiatrists and psychologists in India.
Dr Merchant emphasised that mental illnesses like depression and anxiety, which often go undiagnosed due to poor access to mental health services and the stigma associated with mental illness, regularly force people to take such drastic steps. COVID-19 has also played a wicked role in aggravating the situation.
"The pandemic became a negative catalyst for the increase in suicidal cases. There is an increase in general anxiety in people because of insecurity, uncertainty, and loneliness. There is also an increase in depression cases and there has been a huge shift in trauma-related cases. Childhood trauma and domestic abuse have resurfaced", Kanika Agarwal, the founder of the mental health platform MindPeers, told Sputnik.
"...It's Never Too Late"
Dr Prakriti Poddar, a leading mental health expert in India and the managing trustee of the Poddar Foundation, stressed the immediate step that needs to be taken is to recognise the warning signs, which include: extreme mood swings, feelings of hopelessness, giving away possessions, losing interest in activities, talking about death or suicide, saying goodbye to family and friends, and saying they are a burden and withdrawing from friends and family.
How to Help a Person With Suicidal Thoughts?
There are certain ways to approach someone at risk of suicide, like asking them if they are okay or if they are thinking of hurting or killing themselves; listening to them like a true friend when someone comtemplating suicide needs proper support. It's crucial to let them know they have been heard, tell them they are not alone, and seek professional help in case of emergencies.