Fear of lonely deaths: Docs, paramedics develop anxiety as COVID crisis deepens

Members of a medical team surveying a house in Srinagar (File Photo KM/Umar Ganie)

Srinagar: It’s the fear of lonely deaths that has gripped the mind of 30-year-old Sajid (name-changed), a junior doctor working in the isolation ward of Chest Diseases Hospital, Srinagar.

The apprehension of contracting the virus always plays in his mind. As a result, he recently developed severe anxiety and sought treatment from the Psychiatric Hospital, Rainawari.

“I haven’t met my family for the last one month. I fear I might die without meeting them,” the doctor said.

Similarly, a 29-year-old nurse, working in SKIMS began showing symptoms of depression, after his close friend, who is also a frontline health worker was put under quarantine.

After recurrent bouts of insomnia and heart palpitations, he took psychiatric help. “I feel as if I am seconds away from turning COVID-19 positive,” the nurse said, whose duty hours have stretched longer without a clear end in sight.

While the doctors, nurses and other front line workers are fighting against the coronavirus, the disease is taking a terrible toll on the minds of those, who are at the forefront of the battle.

Professor, Department of Psychiatry, Government Medical College Srinagar, Dr Arshad Hussain said to avoid stress and emotional exhaustion, all frontline workers should follow some strict regimental routines.

“Sleep is the refresher and stress buster and all frontline workers should get it in adequate amount, staying in touch with our dear ones online, relaxation techniques like deep breathing and religious activities like praying may be soul-enriching,” Dr Arshad said.

Consultant, Government Psychiatry Hospital, Dr Junaid Nabi Bhat said that “psychological preparedness” is the need of the hour in the face of the new challenges thrown by the coronavirus pandemic.

“Long duty hours, fewer buffer periods, uncertainty and despair around the pandemic can become the stressors,” Dr Junaid said.

Javaid Ahmad Mir, Psychiatric Nurse, and Nursing Research Scholar said the health care members are facing various challenges given pandemic.

“We are not able to deliver the kind of care to our patients that we used to. Face to face counselling sessions are long and one develops a rapport with the patient to empathize with him. In the present situation, it is not possible,” Mir said.

He noted that many psychiatrists and psychologists are now offering online consultations.

“The patients can use WhatsApp/video calls or through online consultation to remain in touch with the healthcare professionals,” he said.

Wasim Kakroo, Mental Health Therapist, IMHANS, SMHS Hospital said adequate support should be offered to healthcare workers in the present situation.

“The administration should provide the proper PPEs, buffer periods, and show constant appreciation to boost their morale in these times. Healthcare workers are human like the rest of us, and under extreme stress,” he said.

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About the Author

When the world fails to make sense, Hirra Azmat seeks solace in words. Both worlds, literary and the physical lend color to her journalism.

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