COVID19 and mental health in Kashmir: Experts talk, are ready to listen to you!

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Srinagar:  Muneer Ahmad, 30, has been making all efforts to sleep for the last one week.  Netflix, books, online games…he tried so many things to doze off but couldn’t.

His insomnia has led to dark patches on his face and around his eyes. Muneer feels he has lost some weight as well.

Tired, frustrated, and hazy, Muneer has started to take benzodiazepine tablets to fall asleep

“It has been a few days I have started having the medicine,” he said.

A globetrotter, Muneer has confined himself to his room for the last three weeks during the ongoing lockdown in Kashmir in view of the coronavirus pandemic.

The government has ordered for the lockdown and asked people to maintain social distance in view of rising coronavirus cases in Jammu and Kashmir.

 “My days are spent washing hands and reading the daily updates on coronavirus. I haven’t even met my next door friends for a long time now. Doctors say that my anxiety level has increased by completely keeping myself aloof from the people,” he said.

Till Sunday, J&K has recorded 106 COVID-19 positive cases, majority of them from Kashmir.

People largely have not been venturing out of their homes as those violating Section 144 are being charged by the police.

As a result many people are going through mental issues of insomnia and behavioural changes.

Doctors at the Government Psychiatric Hospital said they receive many distress calls from people about anxiety and depression after the lockdown.

“Some have predisposing factors like they already have been suffering from mental issues, which aggravate under current circumstances. Rest all of us have realistic anxiety, which can be easily avoided,” said Dr Yasir Rather, a psychiatrist.

He said that people need to understand the difference between social isolation and social distancing. “People basically have to avoid physical socialisation. A person has to maintain a distance from people and avoid all kinds of in-person communication,” Dr Rather said.

He said the people in quarantine require to avoid boredom in order to remain mentally fit during the lock down.

“Now-a-days a person has got various mediums to connect with the people. An adaptation is needed to cope up with the situation through virtual socialisation, working on hobbies and developing skills,” Dr Rather said.

He, however, said people in villages can communicate each other on terraces and through windows since their houses are located at a certain distance from each other.

Renowned psychiatrist and Head Department of Psychiatry, GMC Srinagar Dr Arshid Hussain, while explaining the difference between social isolation and social distancing, said only physical isolation is needed to keep Covid-19 at bay.

“Social distance is a behaviour of maintaining physical distance between two socialising persons while they interact in different environments. Social isolation is limiting somebody’s ability to interact with other beings by isolating him physically,” he said.

“There is need to do physical isolation quarantine but-coupled with emotions of love empathy and longing, and prayers for the well-being of those infected,” Dr Hussain said.

The ongoing pandemic has aggravated the existing unfavourable ambience for mental health in Kashmir which has a long history of tumultuous political happenings.

Qurat ul Amin and Dr Sair Mir, two mental health experts in Kashmir, Sunday came up with a small digital pamphlet on sustaining good psychological health in these trying times.

The four-page pamphlet, which The Kashmir Monitor has attached in form of pictures with this story, talks of symptoms of mental distress and also gives some useful tips on mental health.

It asks people to make a schedule for themselves and their children, maintain healthy habits like exercising, having good food, sufficient sleep, and engaging in hobbies and activities of interest.

“Now is the perfect time to become role models for your children. Remember, they look upto you. Do not panic or worry excessively. Ask them about their feelings, answer all their queries, reassure them, share suitable information and limit their screen time,” reads the pamphlet.

The experts have also offered to help people in mental distress should they wish to contact them.

“Please feel free to email us at: [email protected]. We guarantee complete anonymity and confidentiality,” the pamphlet reads.

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About the Author

Self-help believer, a gadget lover and nature's admirer.
Presently Senior reporter at The Kashmir Monitor with an experience of nine years in reporting business, crime, defense, politics and environment.Have also contributed to reputed media organizations including First Post, India Spend, Forbes India

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