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The Pandemic Has Mentally Affected Us In More Ways Than One

This post is a part of YKA’s dedicated coverage of the novel coronavirus outbreak and aims to present factual, reliable information. Read more.

Covid-19 has shaken the entire world, and many countries have to go into lockdown on and off since late 2019. Covid-19 is the worst pandemic the world has encountered after the Spanish flu pandemic that wiped out almost 5% of the world’s population in the 1910s.

A decade ago, the world witnessed the 2009 swine flu pandemic caused by H1N1 strains of the flu virus. It affected as many as 1.4 billion people and killed more than 152,000 people across the globe. To date, the Covid-19 has killed 3.54 million people (estimated to be around 7.6 million) and affected 180 million across the globe.

Every country on this planet is under immense pressure to protect its people from Covid-19, and it is becoming a never-ending struggle with the virus mutating as part of its life cycle, posing new challenges to the medical community.

Major Pharma companies have developed vaccines intending to end the pandemic. The vaccines could be categorized into four types: a) Inactivated virus, b) viral vector, c) protein subunit, and d) DNA or RNA. Despite these multiple approaches enabling our body cells to get ready to fight against any viral infections, we are still struggling to find an end to this pandemic.

One of the issues that India faces is the delay in immunizing the population again Covid-19. The delay is partly due to the population and availability of raw materials required to produce vaccines for millions of people.

Moreover, the SARS-CoV-2 keeps mutating into new variants such as the South African variant B.1.351, the UK variant B.1.1.7 and Indian variant B.1.617. It becomes a challenging task for the pharma companies to test the efficacy of their vaccines against the new variant. If the vaccines are not effective against the new variant, it needs to be redesigned to combat the new variant, prolonging the pandemic.

Many countries’ savings have been wiped out due to this pandemic. Major economies struggle to cope with the health care burden as millions of infected people need hospitalization for several days, depending on the severity of the disease.

No one knows when lockdown will be enforced as the virus mutates every now and then, posing a more significant challenge to control and manage the virus. Especially people who are overseas are the most affected as they are unable to see their loved ones back home. Many are losing their families and not allowed to attend the final rites due to strict quarantine and lockdown measures.

Rajan, who lives in the USA, recently lost his father. Because of lockdown restrictions, he couldn’t visit his father’s final rituals in Maharashtra. There are thousands of such people like Rajan who have lost their family member(s) to Covid-19 and are unable to visit their hometown due to limited flights, lockdown, hotel quarantine, long and expensive flights.

This has seriously created mental health issues, and it may take years to recover from such mental health conditions. Governments have to set up a separate budget to manage increasing mental health issues. The freedom to move around has now been crippled by Covid-19, and most people in lockdown are confined in a small space, limiting them to have face-to-face interactions with their dear ones and friends.

It has affected people from all walks of life and has led to mental health issues. It is hard to find a common solution to all as mental health issues differ from person to person. The World Health Organisation hosts a separate webpage for the public to provide the latest information about Covid-19.

Interestingly, there is a separate section on Mythbusters to clarify some of the common beliefs circulated in social media. It also provides advice to the public and health workers, technical guidance, response and ongoing research in the Covid-19 space.

Girl Student in Classroom

Students are the worst affected community as they have lost their luxury of going to school and friendly interactions with their classmates. Many schools and colleges have resorted to online teaching, which isn’t as good as a regular session. We are now living in a virtual world, and it looks like in the coming years, online courses are likely to be a standard format.

The digital screen has now become our portal to communicate with the outside world. In one way, digital technology has reduced the gap between countries, and many meetings could be efficiently conducted without wasting one valuable time and money.

Many children have lost their parents in this second wave in India and have become orphans since then. A few days ago, Smriti Irani, the Indian minister for women and child development, released a statement on Twitter that at least 577 children had lost both parents between April 1 and May 25. It is heartbreaking to hear such news, and the future of these children remains a big question mark.

There were several appeals to the Government of India requesting to support the children who have lost their parents/guardians/adopted parents. It is great to see the Prime Minister of India has released a memo on May 30, 2021, stating that PM Cares will deposit 10 lakh to each of the orphaned children, which will support their personal requirements and education, and the corpus amount will be given to the child at 23 years of age.

As human beings, we tend to generate negative thoughts when we feel alone with no support and minimal interactions with the outside world. The best thing to overcome negative thoughts is by performing regular meditation and yoga, listen to music, news, recall sweet memories, watch favourite movies, plays, and read books.

We live in a highly advanced age where we have access to several online platforms to communicate with friends, relatives, and colleagues. Online meeting platforms such as zoom, teams, Skype, WhatsApp, Facebook, and Twitter have helped us communicate with the outside instantaneously. The above media helps us keep active in life and saves much of our valuable time and money spent commuting to the venue and waiting for the meeting to commence.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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