The Indian government announced a rather sudden lockdown in March 2020 in lieu of the Covid-19 pandemic. The rippling effect of the sudden move can be experienced across the country even now. The peril of migrant workers made harrowing headlines regularly, the cries of the dispossessed who lost their source of daily income went down a grand spiral of silence — a silence that does not care about the have-nots.
Amidst these visible issues, there has been an enormous elephant in the room that demands extensive conversation — all those isolated at home for whom homes are not the safest or most comfortable place.
There has been a steady rise in the number of domestic violence cases throughout the country amidst the lockdown. As per a report by The Hindu, “In 2020, between March 25 and May 31, 1,477 complaints of domestic violence were filed by women. This 68-day period recorded more complaints than those received between March and May in the previous 10 years.”
Youngsters, young adults and millennials who perhaps lived alone in different cities for work, studies or personal reasons were also compelled to come back home in certain cases. For many of them, domestic violence could have been one of the prime reasons for leaving their homes in the first place.
“I grew up in an abusive household. My father was an alcoholic and often beat me for my smallest of mistakes. I left home for my graduation and felt the war was finally over, but our hostels were shut and I had to return to the same traumatising house. I have been verbally abused and threatened, and I am just waiting for my hostel to open again. I have promised myself to not return to this house ever again,” stated a 20-year-old boy who is currently living with his parents in Patna due to the lockdown.
Domestic violence, physical or mental abuse are caused by multiple reasons and in case of a lockdown, when perpetrators and survivors are perhaps locked in the same household, including children who are extremely vulnerable to such violence, it becomes even more important to begin a pro-active conversation regarding the same.
As much as we encourage survivors to protect themselves and file a complaint against such incidents, the onus is not entirely on them to prevent such violence from happening. It is imperative that individuals with anger issues, low emotional intelligence or addiction issues get themselves enrolled in therapy. There are multiple government and private rehabilitation centres to help people who might have violent urges. The added pressure of unemployment, finances and post-pandemic uncertainty adds to the stress.
As for survivors, they can always prepare their own set of methods to combat violence, whatever works for them the best. Informing neighbours or trusted family and friends to contact authorities on their behalf is always a viable option. It is also recommended to have a safe word like a code with someone whom they trust because in most situations, they are threatened and monitored closely so that they cannot file a legal complaint.
The National Commission for Women’s website has multiple resources to provide assistance in these cases. They have launched their WhatsApp and helpline numbers to help women stuck in a pandemic. The Childline 1098 helpline is also effective in filing a complaint in such cases. Further, multiple local NGOs are functioning to assist in these unfortunate incidents. There is help out there, however, one should be willing to reach out for it.
Every individual deserves to be treated with respect and kindness, and no one should have to settle for anything less. It is also essential that we check on our acquaintances periodically and make sure they are fine, and if not, help them at whatever capacity we can.
The pandemic has unleashed a situation of immense restlessness, hopelessness and helplessness amongst all citizens, but it’s particularly the youth who have fallen prey to the grasp of anxiety, depression, paranoia and so on. The grim conditions of the country and the uncertainty of their future have all engulfed them into a whirlpool of overwhelming emotions that hardly give them room to breathe.
Indian parents/guardians are yet to become accepting of conversations about mental health. It is a long journey before a majority of our parents’ generation understand and acknowledge the seriousness of mental health of not just their children, but their own too.
“My parent’s house makes me feel like I’m under house arrest. My mother doesn’t understand ‘mujhe kya ho jata hai,’ and I don’t want to explain to her either because it demands a lot of energy, I feel fatigued,” says a 21-year-old woman who suffers from anxiety and depression.
Many student-millennials who were living on their own for education or work purposes are now stuck in homes that are not accepting of their issues. That alone can pose acute threat to someone who suffers from any mental condition as any ounce of misbelief or unacceptance becomes especially taxing and can put them down a spiral.
Parents/family members, and co-living members at large, must always try to update themselves and work on themselves to become aware of mental health issues, to become more sensitive and inclusive towards their children. It is our responsibility to provide a safe space to people and society at large.
However, normalising mental health issues in a regular Indian household still feels like a far-fetched idea and in a condition such as this, if someone feels agitated, confused or disturbed, they can always reach out for help. Emotional abuse is a massive reason for such trauma and perpetrators can be charged under multiple sections of the Indian Penal Code for rendering such violence.
Doctors have now started their online portals where patients can sign up for therapy and counselling sessions, and multiple independent organisations have begun support groups, peer talks and free therapy portals. Numerous NGOs are also working to provide assistance in such cases.
The lockdown has been exceptionally harsh on members of the LGBTQIA+ community as well. The Indian society has to evolve dynamically and radically before it becomes fully welcoming, inclusive and accepting of the queer community. Due to the pandemic, the source of income of many from the community has been heavily challenged and they have received little help from the state or Central government to sustain themselves. However, multiple private organisations are working to provide them assistance and ensure their well-being.
Some members of the community are, however, living in their homes that might not be 100% comfortable for them, making them vulnerable to mental and physical violence. The Indian Penal Code has provisions to punish perpetrators who abuse or harass people from the community physically or mentally.
“In such chaotic times, staying in a house with people who don’t understand something as basic as your gender identity is extremely suffocating. I try to maintain a healthy distance from them. My HRT medication has side-effects and induces depressing and suicidal thoughts, which makes things even more difficult,” said a 20-year-old trans person, who was all set to live alone for academic purposes but now is stuck due to delayed admission amidst pandemic.
There are NGOs and private organisations that work to provide solidarity to LGBTQIA+ members in such a time, help them with counselling, and create an online community where they can find acceptance and peace. One must reach out to one of these NGOs for help.
It becomes our added responsibility to lend our shoulders to our friends and be all ears to their problems, rants and thoughts, but not at the cost of one’s own degrading mental health.
The lockdown has been challenging for disabled individuals, especially those suffering from chronic ailments such as cerebral palsy. Caretakers find it challenging to protect and safeguard them in a situation of lockdown when care homes are shut and individuals have to live with their family who might not be trained to take care of their needs.
They are also subject to abusive behaviour as handling them requires empathy and resources that might be hard to acquire amidst a pandemic.
“I take care of my child who is 75% paralysed. I live in a joint family with aged in-laws. Taking care of everyone and my child separately has become unbelievably difficult for me and I am unable to cope. House helps refuse to come because of fear of Covid-19 and I sometimes cannot contain myself under all these pressures,” said a 45-year-old mother of two, one of whom suffers from cerebral palsy.
Providing assistance in these cases requires skilled individuals who are patient and well-trained. This is where we need to be more vocal about the provisions that must be brought to ensure safety and comfort of such patients. It becomes our individual responsibility to spread awareness about the myths of Covid-19. We have lived for over a year with the virus, yet, misinformation floating around creates such distressing situations that become excruciatingly painful for some to cope with.
Doctors are now available through online portals and apps such as Practo, which features doctors across departments, including emergency services. Not everyone might have the resources to contact online, so they can set appointments via call, too. Disabled individuals deserve proper treatment, care and love. Each case is different from the other and going by generic remedies suggested by easy google searches is always discouraged.
It is high time educational institutes actively participate in encouraging more mental health talks on their campus and have a provision of assistance in their curriculum. Expecting proactive steps holistically is, however, a naïve idea, especially when we have already heard of accounts where students were expected to show up in a class even when a family member had passed away. In one such instance, a faculty member even called out the student ‘soft’ for not turning up in class after his father’s death. The institute in question is IIT Roorkee and the professor who said so has a resume shining with an illustrious career. Amid the ongoing pandemic, examinations were conducted virtually, which created havoc not only due to academic pressure in the middle of a health crisis, but also because of resource disparity across India.
Some institutions, however, have granted provision for counselling of its students, going lenient on attendance and postponing examinations. But the larger consensus (of students) are still expected to keep up with rigorous curricula, attend classes. Students with special needs have suffered immensely and in most cases their education has been stalled as they couldn’t avail to virtual classes. The education board of our country needs to come up with inclusive practices to facilitate the ‘study from home’ culture for these students. This disparity will affect their future and hinder their progress.
Conclusively, we must remember that there is sorrow, perplexity and despondency out there and we must be kind to everyone at all times. Volunteering for NGOs, collecting and disseminating resources and tool kits or just being inclusive, understanding and empathetic can do wonders at the moment.