The COVID-19 pandemic has turned our lives and the world upside down. The stigma surrounding COVID-19 and the burden of the pandemic has resulted in a significant mental health crisis across the country. With the spike in positive cases, the virus has come with fear, anxiety and a spate of suicide incidents across the country, including Odisha.FLO, the women’s wing of FICCI Bhubaneswar Chapter, organized a webinar to spread awareness about mental health, discuss and deliberate about mental health issues and to demystify and remove the stigma. Dr K Sekar, Registrar & Head of Community Disaster Management, NIMHANS, Bangalore, Arun Bothra, IPS, MD CRUT and humanitarian and Dr Ronak Gandhi, Founder & CEO of Loving Centre for Transformation, Ahmedabad comprised the esteemed set of panellists.
The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has not just been physical but also psychological, social, and financial, in the past two months. Be it the fear of contracting the virus or the grief of losing a family member, several competing factors have perpetrated at least eight suicidal deaths, contended the head of community disaster management at NIMHANS, Bangalore, Dr K Sekar. He stressed on developing herd immunity since a body gains immunity to battle any disease that it is threatened with.”Even though we had experienced epidemics before, the Covid-19 pandemic is different as it has affected everyone psychologically, emotionally, economically and physiologically” he added.
Senior IPS officer Arun Bothra explained how people started getting in touch with him during this time, asking for genuine help in different areas. Once they realized that assistance was being provided, the word spread and India Cares was born. It has now over 3000 volunteers to help people during this crisis, he said. For the first time in his 22 years of career, he added, he had a feeling of being fulfilled and satisfied. He is a motivator, and the volunteers are handling most of the queries themselves, with him being behind the scenes, for the assistance that they need.
Mental health issue
The IPS officer emphasized how he had people reaching out to him with mental health issues and how difficult it had been to handle those. The volunteers also were facing mental health issues, having to live through the traumatic experience when the ones they were helping passed away or suffered a setback. Bothra added “they have certain volunteers who are trained and help in counsel. He highlighted how important it is to be there for people who are in need and to suggest solutions and alternatives alleviate their suffering.”
Ronak Gandhi dispersed light on how healing and transformation begin with the self, and with consciousness is shifting. A physician, Zen counsellor, he emphasized that health depends on taking care of not just of our physical health but having a holistic attitude.
“We have two ways to look at the situation. We can either look at the anxiety, fear, uncertainty or look at how we get time with our families, lesser pollution, better environmental condition and so on”, said Gandhi. Talking about suicides, he said “in reality, no one wants to die, but they are fed up of their lives. What is important is to shift focus: to make friends, let go of pain, forgive, be loving, meditate and be grateful.”
The webinar was chaired by Dharitri Patnaik, Chairperson and moderated by Namrita Chahal, Secretary of FLO Bhubaneswar. It was attended by 500 students, social workers, government functionaries, academicians, and FLO members.