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COVID-19 wreaking havoc on Mental Health.

Mental health is a state of well-being in which an individual realises his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.


Mental health is fundamental to our collective and individual ability as humans to think, emote, interact with each other, earn a living and enjoy life. On this basis, the promotion, protection and restoration of mental health can be regarded as a vital concern of individuals, communities and societies throughout the world.(W.H.O)


People from countries where mental health is Taboo remain at high risk

Australia’s corona-virus crisis has pushed hundreds into isolation and unemployment. Health experts warn that anxiety, depression is on the rise and that mental health could be the country's next crisis.


Shaun (name changed) has spent the last three months intentionally avoiding any news from the outside world. He doesn't dare scroll through his social media. The 27-year-old lives in Hobart and is suffering from severe clinical depression amid the global corona virus pandemic."My symptoms go up and down all the time …" Shaun said. "Suddenly I had no clue what to do next. It made me feel trapped. After losing my job there wasn't much to divert my attention and focus towards, which led to more negative emotions."


In March, Tasmania introduced one of the world's toughest shutdown of economy which crashed the whole Hospitality and Tourism economy. The nationwide shutdown disrupted the lives of 22 million people resulting in mass unemployment and high levels of distress among large sections of the population. 


Those who didn't experience mental health obstacles prior to the pandemic have also found problems coping. People hailing form countries where Mental health remain a taboo and perceptions around mental health being sign of weakness are worse affected. As they do not know how to deal with the same apart from self-medicating either through alcohol or cutting down all ties with outside world.


For Shekhar (name changed ) who came as international student from India  the shutdown meant  missing an internship opportunity that would have helped secure him a place in a good Restaurant. The pandemic and subsequent measures made it difficult for Shekhar to deal with his emotions.


"There came a time when I completely lost my appetite. I could not eat for 5-7 days. Neither could I sleep properly," he said.


For Shekhar, fears of contracting the novel corona virus compounded his mental state."This really triggered my paranoia. I started washing my hands about 20 times a day and stopped stepping out altogether," he said, adding that he had accidentally broken her prescription glasses but refused to go out for another pair, terrified he might become infected with the virus. He recounts his feelings of restlessness as he waits for this to come to an end– every announcement of an extension to the shutdown form rest of Australia was accompanied by feelings of hopelessness.


"Before, I would go out for a run, or go to the gym, or meet friends. All that stopped, and I feel caged in as I lost all my income from part time work” he said.

As I spoke with Shekar I recall my own struggle during this time. The loss of my father during the month of April in India brought pain which was expected, however not being able to travel to pay my respect, caused more anguish. 


Being raised in environment where people with mental health were treated like outcast, it was difficult for me to share my feelings with close family members. My uncle who lived with us suffered severe mental health issues while I was growing up and he was confined to four walls and treated like a prisoner. 


I consider myself very blessed to be able to talk with few people and live in a country where many resources are available for individuals to access. However, not enough is done to educated new arrivals, skills migrants and international students that it’s okay to talk about mental health or what constitutes mental health. 


After speaking to various new arrivals / international students it seems many are facing issues which could lead to severe mental health issues in coming future.


My suspect is we're going to start seeing the effects of mental health now. The calamity has gone on for long enough and people are running out of steam We all eventually have a boundary to how much resilience we have, and if the trauma is too much and continues for too long, we will run out of our capacity to deal with it.


Raj Chopra

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