COVID anxiety waning, people okay with new norms: NIMHANS experts

Mental health experts at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (Nimhans) have observed a 'positive sign of adaptation' among people to the new norm amid fears triggered by the Covid pandemic and an unprecedented countrywide lo...

Bengaluru: Mental health experts at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (Nimhans) have observed a 'positive sign of adaptation' among people to the new norm amid fears triggered by the Covid pandemic and an unprecedented countrywide lockdown that lasted for several weeks. “Covid has brought about a sea change in lifestyle with people losing jobs, experiencing pay cuts, working from home, staying away from family and friends, in addition to the sense of insecurity and stress caused by the fear of catching the infection. But when we look at the pattern of grievances over the last five months, there has been a positive change. People are getting used to life in a changed scenario,” said Dr K Sekar, head of the department of psychosocial support in disaster management, Nimhans.

Bengaluru-based Nimhans was the first institute in India to start a helpline to provide psychosocial support during the pandemic. The helpline has received over four lakh calls since April from people across India seeking some kind of psychosocial assistance. Nearly 50% of the calls were received in the first two months and the helpline has seen a gradual decline in the number of calls over the past two months. “We get on an average 1,000 calls a day now. The decrease in the rate of calls could be because of the flow of information and clarity about Covid unlike during the initial weeks, when there was a lot of misinformation floating around. People are better informed today than earlier,” Nimhans director Dr BN Gangadhar told ET.

Nimhans has taken up a huge data-mining exercise to study the pattern of calls and grievances received at the time of the pandemic. “We see a clear distinction in the responses during the lockdown period and once the unlocking began. Although queries and grievances are predominantly related to Covid, there is a shift in people anxiously calling to vent out their fears about family living far away, transportation challenges to now talking about how they are adapting to changes. Data mining will help us study the variations more accurately,” Sekar who is also the member of the national taskforce for psychosocial support on Covid-19, said.


He said the pattern was similar to any other disaster. “The resilient attitude especially among 50,000 people who have been on follow-up consultations in the last five months is reassuring. Our message is to accept, adapt and accelerate,” he said. The overwhelming response has prompted the Nimhans authorities to permanently continue the helpline service. The institute experts said the team is getting ready to provide psychological rehabilitation for those who are affected by the pandemic, over the next one and a half years. “We have also been receiving calls from people seeking help for non-Covid issues. The institute will work out a strategy to continue the helpline service in a different way,” the Nimhans director said.
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