SRINAGAR — At a time when people are confined to their homes due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown, psychiatric experts have severe apprehensions of people developing mental health issues.
Psychiatrists believe that people staying at home for days together with COVID-19 trauma and without keeping themselves busy can have serious repercussions on their mental health.
Dr Mohammad Maqbool Dar, Head of the Department (HoD), Psychiatry, at Government Medical College Srinagar, said that there has been a subsequent increase in the number of cases related to psychiatric diseases among people ever since the successive lockdowns had to be imposed in the wake of COVID-19 outbreak.
Talking about the most common mental health issues people have developed during these lockdowns, Dr Maqbool said, “Most of the psychiatric patients have developed five types of illnesses during this period like depression, anxiety, dissociative and panic disorders besides Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), while Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) has also been witnessed in some patients.”
Giving details about the symptoms of these diseases, he said, “If we talk of depression, the patients suffering from this mental health issue are usually in a bad mood; they sleep less, have poor concentration and sometimes even develop suicidal thoughts also”.
“In case of panic disorder, a patient feels intense anxiety which remains there for a few minutes. He experiences chest pain, headache, choking sensation in the throat and at times feels about to experience a heart attack. These patients also visit cardiologists for treatment,” Dr Maqbool said.
The patients suffering from dissociative disorder feel like dizziness which remains there for some minutes and at times it lasts for half an hour.
“As regards Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), the patients suffering from it frequently wash their hands, indulge in repetitive behaviour, face health anxiety and due to COVID-19, their behaviour has also got reinforced”, he added.
Giving reference to a study conducted by the Institute of Mental Health in collaboration with some of the renowned doctors from Government Medical College and Chest Diseases Hospital in Srinagar, the top doctor said that they have conducted a study on 119 patients to find out about the percentage of people suffering from different disorders.
“During the study, we found that as per scales, 44 per cent of the people in our study were found suffering from anxiety disorder, 61 per cent from depression, 25 per cent from PTSD while OCD was found in almost among 98 per cent of the patients” he added.
Dr Maqbool said that due to the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic, people sitting home as usual or home-isolating are developing mental health problems and thus need to take care of the issue.
“People sitting in home isolation need to keep themselves engaged, they can talk to people over phone, keep themselves busy in doing exercises, meditation or yoga and playing indoor games. This way they can prevent stress on their mental health,” he suggested.
Earlier, the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) was functioning from two places simultaneously with its OPD at IMH, Kathi Darwaza, Srinagar, and General Psychiatry Hospital Unit at Shri Maharaja Hari Singh (SMHS) hospital, but due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the General Psychiatry Hospital Unit at SMHS Hospital has been converted into COVID-19 facility. People are now visiting IMH Kathi Darwaza for counselling and treatment. The de-addiction centre that was functioning from SMHS Hospital has also been shifted to the IMH.
After the imposition of lockdown, Dr Maqbool informed, OPD, counselling and other services available have been made available online as well. A helpline has been made available for the general public for online counselling and psychiatric consultation.
“Three of our clinical psychologists receive calls from the public thrice a week at COVID-19 Control Room in Divisional Commissioner’s office. Our psychiatrists have also given their numbers for wide publicity and are receiving calls from the people for online consultation and counselling regarding COVID-19 and mental health issues,” the top doctor said.
He said people should take precautions to maintain their mental health and can avail counselling on helpline numbers already publicised through various media.
Health & Medical Education Department through its National Health Mission has started a tele-counselling facility for people dealing with mental trauma, stress and depression after having lost their loved ones during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In Srinagar district, the affected individuals have been advised to contact Dr Maqbool, HoD Psychiatry, on 7889818196; Dr Junaid Nabi, Assistant Professor, on 9797199799; Dr Rayees, Assistant Professor, on 6005027377; and Dr Hadika, Senior Resident, on 9622932343. (KNO)