Though omicron variant of COVID-19 is claimed to have less severity among patients, the experts believe that this variant is one more jolt to the existing pool of mental health burden people are going through in Kashmir.
According to the top psychiatrists of the valley, as the restrictions are again being imposed, it's again hitting the so-called normal that we tried to create in covid times.
Since, tele-consultation has been started, Dr Umar Jan, Consultant Neuropsychiatry said that he received 100-150 telephone calls and thousands of SMS per day with different Psychiatric problems from various districts of the Kashmir valley. Among them, there is a huge number of people with anxiety disorders, depression, PTSD and insomnia.
“We are again heading towards an unpredictable situation. The fear is being induced again. This variant is one more jolt to the existing pool of mental health burden people are going through. It's adding to the fatigue level of people. People were trying to create and adjust according to the ‘covid being around lifestyle’ but now again they are on square one,” said Dr Yasir Hassan Rather, Assistant Professor at Institute of Mental Health & Neurosciences (IMHANS) in Srinagar.
Dr Rather said that as Omicron is looming, increased worry and its impact on different spheres of life is expected. “The exact impact on mental health will unfold in coming times. All professionals need to be prepared for the worsening of psychiatric co-morbidities.”
He said that this new variant has first of all affected the hope of people, as it has caused more worry in regard to its increased transmissibility.
“Hope is a strong component in mental health, when we hope and start believing in it, we automatically try creating something better. But when hope is affected, it changes the scenario from having an optimistic outlook to being pessimistic. This itself is a precursor for many mental health issues,” he said.
The hyped media coverage has led to a pattern of increased worry in everyone which also is creating uncertainty and anxiety in people. The sense of worry is all- whether they are vaccinated or not. People are again bound to feel unsafe, he said.
Pertinent to mention that Covid-19 has caused significant distress around the globe. Apart from the evident physical symptoms in infected cases, it has caused serious damage to public mental health. India, like other countries, implemented a nationwide lockdown to contain and curb the transmission of the virus.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, you may experience stress, anxiety, fear, sadness and loneliness. And mental health disorders, including anxiety and depression, can worsen,” Dr Jan told Rising Kashmir.
He said that surveys show a major increase in the number of people who report symptoms of stress, anxiety, depression and insomnia during the pandemic, compared with surveys before the pandemic.
“Some people have increased their use of drugs, thinking that can help them cope with their fears about the pandemic. In reality, using these substances can worsen anxiety and depression. People with substance use disorders, notably those addicted to tobacco or opioids, are likely to have worse outcomes if they get COVID-19. That's because these addictions can harm lung function and weaken the immune system, causing chronic conditions such as heart disease and lung disease, which increase the risk of serious complications from COVID-19,” Dr Jan said.
He said that people got trapped inside the houses which they were not habitual of and had developed stress, low mood, restlessness, insomnia and agitation.
“People who were already diagnosed with depression and anxiety, have suffered multiple folds which includes irrational worries of getting infected, post-traumatic stress after seeing someone's death in family or neighborhood,” he said.
Dr Jan further said that people used to keep a huge stock of sanitizers and were always worried what if the stock gets finished? Closure of routine OPDs in hospitals and private clinics have collapsed the health system in terms of rise in mental health problems.
For all of these reasons, it's important to learn self-care strategies and get the care you need to cope with the existing situation.
Self-care strategies are good for your mental health and can help you take charge of your life. Take care of your mind and connect with others to benefit your mental health. Get enough sleep. Go to bed and get up at the same time each day. Stick close to your typical sleep-wake schedule, even if you're staying at home.
Choose a well-balanced diet. Avoid loading up on junk food and refined sugar. Limit caffeine as it can aggravate stress, anxiety and sleep problems.
If you smoke tobacco you're already at higher risk of lung disease. Because COVID-19 affects the lungs, your risk increases even more. Using alcohol to try to cope can make matters worse and reduce your coping skills. Avoid taking drugs to cope, unless your doctor prescribed medications for you.
Limit screen time
Turn off electronic devices for some time each day, including 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime. Make a conscious effort to spend less time in front of a screen — television, tablet, computer and phone.
Limit exposure to news media
Constant news about COVID-19 from all types of media can heighten fears about the disease. Limit social media that may expose you to rumors and false information. Also limit reading, hearing or watching other news, but keep up to date on national and local recommendations. Look for reliable sources, such as the World Health Organization (WHO) or nearby Health centre.
Healthy distractions can get you away from the cycle of negative thoughts that feed anxiety and depression. Enjoy hobbies that you can do at home, such as reading a book, writing in a journal, making a craft, playing games or cooking a new meal.
Focus on positive thoughts
Choose to focus on the positive things in your life, instead of dwelling on how bad you feel. Consider starting each day by listing things you are thankful for. Maintain a sense of hope, work to accept changes as they occur and try to keep problems in perspective. Use your moral compass or spiritual life for support. If you draw strength from a belief system, it can bring you comfort during difficult and uncertain times.
Get help when needed
Hoping mental health problems such as anxiety or depression will go away on their own can lead to worsening symptoms. If you have concerns or if you experience worsening of mental health symptoms, ask for help from a professional Psychiatrist, whenever you need it, and be upfront about how you're doing.
Don't take any medications or sleeping pills without the advice of a professional Psychiatrist, as there are many medicines which can calm you for time being, make you sleep but in the longer run they are very hazardous to your health and you may face very bad side effects of the medicines (Psychotropics).
Consult a Mental health expert (Psychiatrist only) if you face any mental health problem during this wave of COVID or otherwise.