Those suffering from schizophrenia, bipolar disorder say the period has been difficult
Experts are of the view that the prolonged COVID-19 lockdown has led to a deep sense of distress among the public. This is particularly so for those with pre-existing mental illnesses.
Reduced access to medication and drastic changes to routine could lead to relapses for those who have mental illnesses, say experts. Those with mental illnesses including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder who spoke to The Hindu say that the five months since lockdown began have been difficult.
A 32 year-old woman diagnosed with schizophrenia says that the lockdown has placed her in a setting where she has no choice but to interact with extended family who are unaware of her mental illness. “It is difficult because everyone tends to be insensitive. They write my mental illness off as mood swings. It also becomes difficult for me to virtually connect to periodic sessions with my psychiatrist online,” she says.
The daughter of a 82 year-old man with dementia says that it was particularly difficult in procuring medication for him during the initial phases of the lockdown, leading to worsening of his mental health. “Although it is easier now, we have to ensure that the medicines are ordered in bulk and in advance to avoid any major issues,” she says.
A detailed document by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, Bangalore, titled ‘Mental Health in the times of COVID-19 Pandemic- Guidance for General Medical and Specialised Mental Health Care Settings’ focuses on various aspects of mental health including those who have already been diagnosed with mental illnesses.
The document states that any pre-existing psychiatric conditions like psychosis, mood disorders, anxiety spectrum disorders, sleep disorders and many others, can exacerbate during the quarantine. The document adds that one must acknowledge the feeling of boredom, loneliness, feeling sad, stressed, confused, loss of personal freedom and guilt.
“Persons with pre-existing mental illnesses are particularly disadvantaged during the lockdowns. For persons with mental illness or epilepsy, reduced access to medication can lead to relapse of symptoms, as can the compounded stress. For persons with substance use disorders, sudden withdrawal leading to seizures, delirium, agitation, and even suicide have been described,” the document states.
Nandini Murali, an activist and director of SPEAK, an organisation that aims to create safe spaces for those impacted by suicide loss says that she has come across a few persons who have confided in her about suicidal ideation but are yet to reach out to professionals that she has put them in touch with. “The full impact of the pandemic is yet to set in. We must ensure that the stigma regarding reaching out for support is avoided,” she says.
G.Gurubharathy who works with M.S.Chellamuthu Trust and Research Foundation, says that they are still tending to mental health emergencies through their helpline and treating cases as well. Much of their consultation has shifted online for the protection of patients as well as their employees but he says that there is a steady stream of patients. “We even deliver our drugs online,” he says.
He says that it is important to keep in mind the transitional natures of these disaster-like situations to tide through difficult times. “Although we have been advised to keep physical distance, we must ensure we use our social connections to ensure that we work our way through the pandemic,” he says.
Source: Read Full Article