How is Social Distancing taking a toll on Mental Health?

With the death of the prominent Bollywood actor, Sushant Singh Rajput, entire India came to a standstill last afternoon. No one in the entire Bollywood fraternity could even guess that their fellow mate was going through such mental trauma. Well, all of this isn’t about the film industry losing a promising actor. It’s all about a man, losing his fight, not being able to cope with his own self. But why? As long as depression remains a social stigma, every suicide is a murder, and we are all to blame. In our nation, when people fail to communicate their problems even when they socialize every day, the gap has widened even more during this lockdown.
In the absence of any effective vaccine, the only probable solution that has aroused in this scenario is to maintain a safe distance between individuals to prevent infection. This process has been gained a new word in the dictionary “social distancing”. This social distancing advisory has been defined by the Centre of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), USA, and it recommends that people should stay at least 6 feet apart from each other and should not gather in a group. The World Health Organization (WHO) also highlighted social distancing in their statement: “A mix of social distancing, testing, and contact tracing and isolation will be crucial to curb the spread of coronavirus already devastating much of the globe”.

Although this social distancing has significantly curbed the spread of the disease, it has taken a serious toll on mental health. People suffering from mental depression are finding it harder than ever to communicate. Due to the stringent rules imposed by the government, it has even become impossible to consult professionals. Many quarantined individuals are experiencing both short and long-term mental health problems, including stress, insomnia, emotional exhaustion, and substance abuse. According to one study comparing quarantined versus non-quarantined individuals during an equine influenza outbreak, out of 2,760 quarantined people, 34 percent, or 938 individuals, reported high levels of psychological distress, which can indicate mental health problems such as anxiety and depression, during the outbreak compared with 12 percent of non-quarantined individuals.

Our grandparents are the ones most exposed to this problem. Since they are at a chance of getting infected easily, they have been isolated at every house. Already having a limited support system, social distancing has made it almost impossible to deal with their voids. This is terrifying.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has already warned that mental health problems will be the main cause of disability in the world in 2030. Now, people already suffering from mental health conditions are being adversely affected by the emotional responses elicited by the COVID-19 pandemic. This is resulting in further deterioration of their existing mental health condition due to chronic stress, caused by economic and psychological turmoil.
At such a crucial time, it is extremely important to communicate, in the true sense of the word. The famous writer, Ned Vizzini, who often spoke and wrote about his struggles with severe clinical depression, died by suicide at the age of 32, once said, “I didn't want to wake up. I was having a much better time asleep. And that's really sad. It was almost like a reverse nightmare, like when you wake up from a nightmare, you're so relieved. I woke up into a nightmare”. That’s how terrifying it is to deal with mental health. These are probably the toughest times. Make everybody feel wanted. Reach out to everyone. It's very important to make everyone feel special and heard. Learn to hear for a change. Don’t upend someone’s grief or agony as something less than ours. This too shall pass if we are in it together.
-Shankhanila Palchowdhury

A graduate student in Journalism and Communications, I am an avid reader, writer, blogger, foodie and movie buff. Based in Kolkata, I am extremely passionate about trekking, travelling, exploring and building new relations every day.

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