Akin to reality-tv shows like Big-Boss, the indefinite and uneventful grouping of family has increased restlessness or boredom.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the Coronavirus (Covid–19) outbreak as Pandemic on 11 March. The viral disease, now regarded as a global problem has rapidly spread to over 150 countries affecting a population of over 2 lakhs and counting, in a short-span of just 10 weeks.
In India, states like Karnataka who have invoked the provisions of Epidemic Diseases Act of 1897, are well within their rights to order the temporary shutdown of educational institutions, malls, transport, markets, jobs, hotels, entertainment, swimming pools, parks and places of mass gathering.
However, this curfew-like situation has clipped the lifestyle choices of a vast majority of Indian people, who have no choice but to follow the government advisory and confine themselves to their dwelling spaces.
Across the economic-hubs, in small or big cities and towns; able-bodied people have opted to work-from-home, children are confined to home with no summer camps or peer interaction. Senior citizens’ have limited access to outdoor spaces. Families with one kid will have pressure on parents to spend excess time.
With no academics to focus on, many children in holiday mode and their parents are unaware of how to spend time with them. Some families are worried that decrease in physical activity, increase ‘screen time’ on mobile phones or Television will lead to further problems.
For the large number of urban-centered nuclear families, the scenario is unprecedented. The clamp-down of non-essential travel and general gathering at public spaces; has paralyzed their lifestyle. Akin to reality-tv shows like Big-Boss, the indefinite and uneventful grouping of family members has increased restlessness or boredom.
In its observation, even the World Health Organization (WHO) has added that Coronavirus outbreak can cause panic, anxiety, low-mood, fear of infection to self and loved ones. Also, while appreciating awareness drive by the countries against Coronavirus, WHO has cautioned agencies against stigmatizing a person with names such as ‘virus infected individual’, so that those with symptoms don’t shy away from reaching out to the appropriate authorities for treatment due to the fear of being ostracized.
Moreover, continual flow of information on news and social media platforms on Coronavirus; prevention, effects, outbreaks, consequences, refusal of treatment or quarantine by suspected cases and deaths can be a source of anxiety and fear. In several countries, people have resorted to panic buy and reportedly ‘hoarding’ of daily essentials.
Others, in countries like India, the disinformation, misinformation and malinformation on Coronavirus has created a baseless assumption. For persons with lower thresholds for getting a mental illness such as Anxiety and Depression, the outbreak can bring about one. The fear and apprehension of contacting and dying of Coronavirus infection may be the central theme leading to anxiety.
A review of scientific past literature on psychological impact of Quarantine that a Psychiatry Team at London concluded that strict quarantine such as imposition of restriction of liberty when compared to voluntary way of self-isolating causes more psychological distress. The need for rapid information to ensure understanding was also emphasized in that article. Quarantine is an unknown entity, can lead to anger outbursts as there is loss of freedom and boredom. Suicide watch may be required in a few cases. If someone with known mental illness is in quarantine, they require access to mental health follow up, and require their medications, without which condition can get worse.
For digitally illiterate people, the unscientific claims on Social media on home-made remedies against Coronavirus, its survival under India’s hot tropical climate, effect of consuming poultry and meat, may further complicate their confusion.
With limited knowledge about mental health impact, we might be speculating, so to help plan ahead. A study by Stefan Priebe and colleagues found that the rates of mental illness were higher aftermath of a war may mean that we will know more only after this disaster ends.
If information on news and media on Coronavirus is overwhelming, WHO suggests that simply following routine updates on Health advisory from Local Government, Health agencies and the WHO, will do.
All over the world, the medical researchers are putting their best foot forward to find a cure for Coronavirus and similar to earlier medical challenges they are likely to find one soon. In the best interest of their community, ordinary citizens must restore faith and cooperate with healthcare personnel.
At such challenging times of uncertainty, families must come together to support each other. All members of the family at home, practicing some form of spirituality such as meditation, mindfulness, Yoga may all assist in ensuring mental well-being. It is something new for everyone that they have to explore ways to remain occupied. Regular group meetings via video link or social media aimed to find ways to keep occupied is also another option that can generate new ideas. Teaching via web video link can also be conducted if necessary.
Engage with children, ensure there is enough enthusiasm, energy and positive thoughts in the kids. Explore a variety of indoor games or hobbies. Inspire other family members to involve in creative work or learning.
Technology can be used in this situation to pick up some new language skills, reading new books or socialize via video conferencing, reconnecting with relatives and peers.
Though within the four walls – the key is to focus on doing something constructive and not just keep watching the news, updates that could create fear, as there are chances of further spreading is high. People need to act responsibly; maintain social distance, avoid public gatherings, eating healthy, sleeping adequately, reporting suspect cases to the authorities and following basic rules of hygiene.