By Sushree Mishra
The current Covid-19 pandemic has put the focus firmly on Psychological well being and mental wellness than ever before. It is visible in the media and public discourse as a new normal.
A disturbing piece of news is that there have been 338 suicide deaths (TOI,4th May 2020) across the country from 19th March to 2nd May 2020 during the lockdown period. These numbers demand a deeper reflection on the state of mental health and wellness in our country.
In the year 2019, World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH) decided ‘suicide prevention’, as the theme of World Mental Health Day. According to WHO, 800,000 people die by suicide a year making it the principal cause of death among the people of the age of fifteen years to twenty-nine years. A majority of these precious lives could have been saved if people around them would have appreciated this multidimensional disorder and responded immediately.
How many more lives could we afford to lose?
The Covid-19 pandemic is changing life as we know it so far. Chances of people feeling vulnerable, anxious, fearful, confused, lost and agitated would be higher. Naturally it may lead to experiencing emotional disturbance which may present itself in the form of depression, aggression, substance abuse, addiction etc. These are all overwhelming experiences, unprecedented to the person. It could pretty much add to the onset of suicidal tendencies.
According to research, ‘being trapped in an overwhelming experience could be pathways to suicide’.
It’s well known that suicide in itself is not a disease, not a manifestation of a disease, but mental disorders are a major factor associated with suicide. Mood Disorder i.e. Depression and Alcoholism being the predominant contributing factors.
The question is, “Is there a mental health pandemic already at our doorstep?”
This pandemic is forcing people to choose between life and livelihood. Therefore, the chances of people feeling vulnerable, anxious, fearful, agitated, confused , stressful, disconnected , lost and crazy etc are higher. How do we cope up with this sense of loss and the changing scenario? How prepared are we ?
The first and most important step for an affected individual is self-disclosure. Seeking professional assistance is the next step followed by a mutually designed recovery path. The three S : Speaking, Sharing, Seeking support would help in early detection and timely intervention. Family members, friends and well wishers need to listen and can refer for further consultation. Certain clues like avoidant behaviour, lack of interest in daily routine , sudden change in daily routine and plans, lethargy, abusive and incoherent behaviour, dismissive remarks etc and many more could be considered as subtle signs of emotional disturbance. Immediate social environment plays a crucial role in stabilising the person.The individual willingness to continue living, family support providing relief, professional counselling and medication(if necessary) could positively ensure getting back on track.
This recovery process could be termed as taking care of oneself by regaining control.
The good news is that we have now support and care available to us even during lockdown in many different cities. Mental health professionals like Psychiatrists, Counsellors, Psychotherapists and Psychologists could be approached through dedicated psychosocial Helplines, Online or individual appointments. Enhancing emotional resilience and expanding the threshold of tolerance would be our ammunition.
It’s time we paid a visit to what we have neglected for so long.

Below are few helpline numbers, in case you need any support.
CYSD Citizen support centre, Bhubaneshwar: 8880592592
Odisha Govt. Helpline: 104
Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, GOI: 080-46110007
Parivarthan Counselling, Training and Research Centre, Bengaluru:7676602602
iCall, Mumbai:022-25521111

(Sushree Mishra is a counsellor and psychotherapist with more than a decade of experience. She practices from Bangalore and Bhubaneswar .)