Dr Mona Nongmeikapam
CORONA AND MENTAL HEALTH:
Continuing in the lighter vein, we the Mental Health workers have much to be grateful to the Mighty Novel Corona! Never in our wildest dreams did we think that our ‘Minor’, ‘allied’, ‘light’ and ‘easy and perfect for girls’ subjects will actually join the mainstream and we will be ever called “Front-line workers” too. From the deprived-Cinderella till early February-March this year, we now boast of our own State Level Helpline number 104 available from 9 am to 9 pm round the year because Mental Health crusaders never take a break, we always have a battle to fight, lives to save. Not just this, the state mental health workers have been doing our little bit though not maybe enough.
SOME OF OUR ACTIVITIES:
[I take the liberty to sum together all the activities done by the Indian Psychiatric Society (IPS)- Manipur state branch, the National Health Mission (NHM) programme, the Psychiatry/ Psychology Departments of the two medical colleges, private practitioners, private hospitals, various forums, media portals, organisations- government and non-government, etc.]
1. State-wide various sensitisation programmes on Covid-19 mental health issues.
2. Keeping OPDs functional throughout the year except for the first Lockdown and even then providing options of Teleconsultations, Support helplines, Facebook lives, online blogs, radio and TV Programmes, newspaper articles, etc. and finally our very own State Level Helpline (number is 104). Reaching out to the masses also brought along the side-effects of accessibility; nasty comments, rude name-callings, criticism, even misuse of the helplines to enquire Hotel Quarantine rates and unrelated issues, but we took the bullet for Mental Health Promotion J.
3. Embracing the new normal, this has been a year of webinars. Everyone dusted off their laptops, learn some tech-savviness and zoomed away to glory. Conferences, CMEs, school and college support programmes, path-breaking meetings, group therapies, we even pulled off a National Level CME.
4. Tele counselling for the returnees, people in institutional quarantine centres, people affected by Covid-19 in Covid-Care Centres, wards or in-home isolation.
5. Counselling to the migrant workers.
6. Targeted intervention programmes to various stakeholders such as college students, staffs of PHCs and local clubs.
7. Stress management training.
8. Organising various competitions such as poetry, drawing, essay writing, quiz programmes, Mental Health and awareness camps etc. to spread awareness during World Suicide Prevention Day, World Mental Health Day, amongst others.
WHAT HAS BEEN HAPPENING WORLD-WIDE?
The World Federation of Mental Health (WFMH) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) have fostered and encouraged the development of mental health promotion activities throughout the world for many years. In this collaborative project, a sample of mental health promotion programmes, initiatives and strategies used by various countries/ organisations was collected and compiled into a document that mental health associations and other organizations can use in their own communities and countries. Interested readers can look up - Mental health promotion: case studies from countries / Editors: Shekhar Saxena and Preston J. Garrison.
HOW ARE THE MASSES COPING?
Saw a funny video clip the other day. Starting Lockdown 1.0 a man visiting the supermarket: has the PPE on, some hi-tech electrical purifier with masks and protective goggles and what not? A few months later the purifier and goggles go off, then the PPE, then he goes in casuals but with masks and sanitises before going home. Latest scene denoting the present day shows the man getting off the car with his grocery bag, mask hanging off one ear and he casually munching on an apple straight out of that shopping bag! This little video sums up very effectively how each of us have been dealing with Covid-19 and its associated lifestyle change demands.
SOME TRICKS THAT WORKED?
1. Keeping informed, listening to advice and recommendations from national and local authorities, following trusted news channels and keeping up-to-date with the latest news from WHO on social media.
2. Having a routine:
· Getting up and go to bed at similar times every day.
· Keeping up with personal hygiene.
· Eating healthy meals at regular times.
· Exercising regularly.
· Allocating time for working and time for resting.
· Making time for doing things you enjoy.
3. Minimising newsfeeds, reducing how much one watches, reads or listens to news that makes one anxious or distressed. Making information seeking at specific times of the day, maybe once or twice a day if needed and avoiding constant news updates is one way.
4. The term should be “Physical Distancing” and not social distancing.
5. Avoiding use of alcohol and drugs as a way of dealing with fear, anxiety, boredom and social isolation.
If You Have A pre-existing Mental Health Condition:
· Please make sure that you continue to take medication as prescribed, and that you have a way of re-stocking your medication. If you are see a mental health specialist, find out how to continue with that support during the outbreak.
· Keep in touch with people who care for you and know who you can contact for support if your mental health declines.
· If you have an alcohol or drug use disorder, be aware that the COVID-19 outbreak may lead to increased feelings of fear, anxiety and isolation that can increase the risk of relapse, substance use, disengagement from treatment or non-compliance with treatment regimens. Make sure that you continue to take medication as prescribed.
· If you are on therapy/ counselling in lay-man terms, kindly check with your therapist or health-care provider about the best way of continuing with therapy whether in OPD or from confinement at home (Teleconsultation).
SOME THAT BACKFIRES?
· Excess Screen time.
· Too much Video games, social media and misinformation: It is important to keep the right balance with off-line activities in one’s daily routine.
· Too much Fear
HOW MUCH LONGER?
There is no absolute way of knowing for sure. While experts had started sharing about new vaccine types, trials, cost and efficacy, there is again a fresh wave of lockdown with the new viral strain in view.
WHAT IS THIS NEW UK STRAIN?
The new variant has rapidly become the dominant strain in cases of COVID-19 in parts of southern England, and has been linked to an increase in hospitalisation rates, especially in London and in the adjacent county of Kent. The strain, referred to by some experts as the B.1.1.7 lineage, is not the first new variant of the pandemic virus to emerge, but is said to be up to 70% more transmissible than the previously dominant strain in the United Kingdom. There was even widespread panic in the state with talks of the UK strain having reached Imphal but fortunately, the said contact had tested negative and the whole state heaved a sigh of relief.
Corona is here to stay, maybe a month, a year or might miraculously vanish as quietly as it had appeared. Till then, Pray, Be kind.
Don’t discriminate against people because of your fears of the spread of COVID-19.
You have been exposed, get tested. You have tested positive, inform. Do unto others what you would unto yourself. The nurse not getting the test right- take a calming breath instead of taking out your frustration on her. We the Mental Health workers are humans in the garb of superheroes. Do be patient, a condescending “Good job” just do the trick. Let’s keep our mental and physical health sound so that we may be able to take whatever comes along in our stride. And above all, keep praying. This too shall pass.
The writer is Consultant Psychiatrist, Shija Hospitals and Research Institute, Imphal, Manipur
For any doubt or feedback, the author can be reached at: [email protected]