New Delhi: While the novel coronavirus is a major physical health threat, the overlooked aspect of the pandemic is its impact on the mental health. Be it the frontline warriors or the migrant workers or even ordinary people who are either without a job or confined to their homes during, the pandemic, which has posed various mental health issues. On the occasion of International Youth Day (August 12), the NGO, Population Foundation of India (PFI), released a 3-state study where they assessed the impact of India’s COVID-19 lockdown on the mental health of adolescents. In the study, many adolescents reported as feeling depressed during the lockdown.
Depression is an umbrella word to describe a mixed bag of emotions. According to the journal Healthline, the symptoms of depression vary from person to person. Some of the symptoms include feeling sad, empty, or anxious, less energetic, helpless, tired or thinking more slowly. Not everyone has the same or all the symptoms.
The Rapid Assessment study was conducted in the month of May in Bihar, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh; to understand how adolescents were coping with COVID-19 challenges. The survey collected responses from 801 respondents (271 boys and 530 girls) in the age group 15-24 years. The data collected telephonically, due to limitations of face-to-face interviews during the lockdown.
The areas of impact studied were the effect on mental health, sources to obtain information on COVID-19, increase in workload at home and unmet need for sanitary napkins since schools were shut.
Poonam Muttreja, Executive Director, PFI says that the implications of interrupted healthcare must be critically explored among adolescents in India. She told NDTV,
Constituting nearly one-fifth of the country’s population, with the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown, adolescents face educational uncertainties with the closure of schools and colleges, and patchy access to digital learning. They also faced restrictions on their mobility, freedom and socialisation, an increase in domestic chores and household conflict (disproportionately borne by women), and anxieties around their employment prospects, among others. However, high prevalence of informal channels of information on healthcare, such as friends or TV shows, is not ideal as the care provided is not vetted for accuracy and those delivering it are not trained to do so.
Key Findings Of Impact On Mental Health Of COVID Study From Bihar
The study pointed out that nearly 5 out of every 10 adolescents (48 per cent) in Bihar chose television to address issues of mental and emotional wellbeing during the ongoing lockdown. Moreover, 3 out of every 10 young people (36 per cent) sought help via social media platforms to tackle mental health issues.
The worrying statistic in the story was that only one respondent reported using school as a source of information on such issues.
This clearly indicates the inability of educational institutions to transcend the boundaries of school premises and the academic session to stay connected with students, reads the study.
Another major worrying impact of the lockdown was the shortage of sanitary napkins among the girls in Bihar, as 55 per cent respondents felt the need for sanitary napkins could not be fulfilled. COVID-19 has forced schools to close, that meant no sanitary napkins and girls were forced to use unhygienic options.
Also, in Bihar, 28 per cent of female adolescents surveyed said they felt depressed during the lockdown as compared to 17 per cent of male respondents.
When it comes to COVID-19 awareness, 92 per cent of Bihar’s respondents said that they were aware of at least two symptoms associated with COVID-19.
On the other hand, 100 per cent admitted to frequent washing of hands as a precautionary measure, 84 per cent said they would self-isolate if the need arises and about 91 per cent said they would help in contact tracing if need be.
The survey in Bihar was conducted among 184 adolescents.
Key Findings Of Impact On Mental Health Of COVID Study From Uttar Pradesh
In Uttar Pradesh, 1 in 4 young people experienced depression during the lockdown. Furthermore, almost nine out of every ten young women (89 per cent) in Uttar Pradesh sought help for mental health during the COVID-19 lockdown.
However, only 5 out of those 8 felt the information and support from mental health sources was helpful.
19 per cent of young women reported the need for sanitary napkins was not met. With schools closed and a general restriction in movement, young women in various sections of society were forced to go back to using cloth during menstruation, as per the study.
Not a single respondent said that schools were the source of information on COVID-19, however, this should be understood in the context of a nationwide lockdown that had closed schools across the country. 21 per cent said WhatsApp and 37 per cent said TV were the sources of information regarding coronavirus and mental health, the study read.
37 per cent of respondents in Uttar Pradesh said they will seek medical help if they develop any of the symptoms. While 39 per cent reported to be washing their hands regularly, 33 per cent were aware of at least two symptoms of COVID-19 and 36 per cent said they would self-isolate if the need arises.
The survey in Uttar Pradesh was conducted among 254 adolescents.
Key Findings Of Impact On Mental Health Of COVID Study From Rajasthan
2 out of every 10 adolescents surveyed in Rajasthan felt depressed due to the lockdown. Moreover, seven out of every ten adolescent females (73 per cent) said that they have faced a problem procuring sanitary pads during the lockdown in the state.
23 per cent of the total respondents listed schools as a reliable source of information on COVID-19 in the state. Incidentally of the three states, Rajasthan was the only one where respondents showed that the school system has worked in disseminating information about the pandemic, reads the study.
A whopping 84 per cent said that TV was the main source of information on COVID-19 while 37 per cent of respondents admitted to using WhatsApp as a source of information during the lockdown.
A considerable 45 per cent of young adolescents sought help from a mental health resource during the lockdown in Rajasthan.
The survey in Rajasthan was conducted among 362 adolescents.
Dr. Manohar Agnani, Joint Secretary, Reproductive and Child Health, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, told NDTV about the the steps being taken by the government to address these worrying figures. He said,
When it comes to mental health, webinars have been conducted to orient our state program officers who are dealing with the impact of COVID-19 adolescent and mental health issues. The ministry has also collaborated with relevant organisations for skill building of adolescent health counsellors on providing psychological support to adolescents and young people. We are also engaging with youth networks to connect with community-based youth champions and networks for creating a positive environment around mental health issues.
Overall in the study, more than half the adolescents the study spoke to confirmed that they had access to information on mental health, and nearly half among them said that they had used some form of mental health service or resource. Among the different resources that were used, most common were face to face interaction with healthcare providers, interactions with friends, and TV.
If you need support or know someone who does, please reach out to your nearest mental health specialist. Helplines numbers:
Sneha Foundation: 91-44-24640050
Vandrevala Foundation for Mental Health: 1860-2662-345 & 1800-2333-330
NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene.
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