COVID-19’s impact on the mental health of the Indian population has been well-documented. Tuition teachers are struggling with the loss of students and students aren’t coping well with the absence of exams. Frontline workers involved with fighting COVID-19 are facing increased emotional burden, and their families are having to cope with the uncertainty of a loved one working in the line of fire.
YourDost, an online counseling and emotional support platform, recently put out a report detailing the extent of the pandemic’s mental health impact. The report surveyed nearly 7,000 Indians in various cities and found that over 50% reported an increase in stress levels from the first nationwide lockdown from April to June this year.
Moreover, when compared to the results of a United Nation paper, this increase in stress in India is close to the levels seen in the United States. This indicates that the mental health deterioration is directly proportional to the size of the outbreak. India recently joined the United States atop global COVID-19 cases rankings. The outlier in the analysis is Iran, but the number of cases and particularly deaths in the country are under scrutiny for being grossly underreported.
“People in India are relatively less aware about understanding the origins of their behavioural patterns,” Suyash Kumar, Head of Marketing at YourDost, told Re:Set. “One of the most saddening aspects of the results from the report was that counseling came out as the least preferred method of coping with stress.”
The survey also found that students in the country were some of the hardest hit by the pandemic. From the beginning of the lockdown to the end of the first phase, students reported a net increase of over 40% in anxiety, fear or worry. They also saw an over 50% increase in feeling angry, irritable or frustrated. Working professionals also saw a high increase in the aforementioned categories, in addition to both groups also seeing a rise in feeling lonely.
Additionally, the YourDost survey finds that people’s daily stressors have changed since the first lockdown was implemented.
At the beginning of the lockdown, Indians were worried about the length of the nationwide shutdown, the fear of contracting COVID-19 and job instability. Three months in, respondents were stressed by a fall in their work-life balance, exams being postponed and a reduction in pay at work or losing their job.
Respondents also saw increased emotional outbursts, reduction in quality of sleep and productivity, and a nearly 10% drop in their physical well-being.
The only positive is that they experienced an improvement in their family and/or marital lives. This revelation is aided by the coping mechanisms people are employing to deal with the stress, as speaking to friends and family more frequently was the primary method of choice for students and working professionals. It was second for those who are self-employed, after exercising more often.
However, it is also to be noted that from the beginning of the lockdown in March to May 15th, cases of domestic violence increased in India according to data released by National Legal Services Authority (NALSA).
“A lot of mental health challenges can be addressed with the leadership, whether of a country or an organization or a family,” Kumar told Re:Set. “If people in India start talking openly about their mental health and seek therapy, that’s half the battle won. More importantly, sharing that experience with family and friends would not only help them, but also raise awareness and encourage others to seek help.”