I came across a post that said, “My apologies to everyone I wished Happy New Year 2020,” and I couldn’t agree more. This year has been a roller coaster so far, and it seems to be going down and down. While the social, political and economic issues continue to prevail, a death-dealing virus comes into the picture, coexists and proliferates.
COVID-19 mocks the class divide and boundaries created by humans. It sees no one; it spares no one. As the cases went up, so did the spurious WhatsApp forwards, chaos, panic-buying and trepidation among people. The increased cases and uncertainty is haunting people taking a toll over their mental health, too.
From immersing into the world wide web for every possible information about coronavirus to fearing even a slight increase in body temperature, to getting their non-existent OCD kick in, people have experienced it all. By 24th March, India had 519 covid-positive patients. To ‘flatten the curve’, the Indian government announced an out-and-out 40-day lockdown. Everything came to a standstill—except divisive journalism and discrimination.
While most people don’t have the privilege and luxury to stay home, quarantine isn’t really a blessing for many. In a recent survey conducted by the Indian Psychiatry Society, there has been a 20% rise in mental illness since the coronavirus outbreak. The level of stress and anxiety has escalated.
The apprehension about job security, exhausting of savings or unavailability of basic things for survival, uncertainty, etc., is adding to it. People who were already suffering from mental illnesses looked upon engaging themselves in outdoor activities and meeting their dear ones as the only coping mechanism. Now they have no option but to dive into the same misery they were battling.
Surviving confinement within the four walls of toxic households leads to relapse for depression and amplifies the pre-existing mental condition. It is triggering and traumatizing for children and women living with abusive families. While crimes such as theft, murder, extortion, molestation, etc., have reduced, there has been a steep increase in domestic violence, marital rape and other such offences against women.
The government has launched several helpline numbers. According to a report by the National Commission for Women, 587 complaints were registered from March 23 to April 16, out of which 239 were related to domestic violence. But, my question here is, are these helplines enabling victims to seek help? Does privilege not play a role here too?
In India, only 43% of women have access to mobile phones. So, it’s impossible for most women to reach out for help, especially when they are under surveillance by their abusive partners and family.
COVID-19 is just not another death-dealing health hazard. It has more profound implications that society would have to bear post lockdown too.