WITHOUT SOCIAL CONTACT, EMOTIONAL ANXIETY TO SHOOT UP
The fear of the unknown is most terrifying. It turns more acute when one is not sure what lies ahead and is not in the position to comprehend how many ways one should try to perceive an outcome. The same situation has arisen in the wake of imposition of lockdown to counter the spread of the disease.
The threat perception of coronavirus has already made the people sceptic and nervous and the situation has been simply further confounded due to uncertainties surrounding the future impact and character of the disease. Of course, we have to protect ourselves, avoid gatherings, but it is the spectre of isolation associated with the lockdown that has been having ruinous effect on the mental health of individuals. Social contact is such a fundamental human need, we suffer both mentally and physically without it.
The situation has simply deteriorated due to the poor testing drive. Almost all the governments have been found to be wanting on this front. The condition of the capitalist and developed countries are the worst, if it is compared with the availability of the resources. A developing country does not have that amount of resources to cope with the corona challenges. But how to exonerate the developed countries for their utter failure? Their failure has been primarily responsible for the swift spread of the virus across the world. Corona ravaging the capitalist world clearly manifests that the political leadership of these countries are intellectually broke. They simply parrot the word isolation and social distancing for keeping them relevance.
There is a difference between isolation and loneliness. Isolation is the physical separation from other people, while loneliness is an emotional state of feeling alone or separated. No doubt isolation hurts the people but loneliness affects the mental health. Loneliness is strongly associated with high blood pressure, sleep disturbances, immune stress responses, and declining reasoning. From a mental health perspective, we see much more depression and anxiety among the lonely.
The manner in which the coronavirus is spreading has turned the people sceptic around the world about its duration; when it will finish, whether it will terminate. These are the two questions often asked by the people. The very idea of living under the shadow of loneliness unnerves the people. Those with anxiety would feel vulnerable as the world seems to be entering uncertain times. When we feel anxiety, we have a natural tendency to want to affiliate with others.
In a country like India this has attained more importance, as the daily wage earners and poor are caught in the worst war of survival. The reports emanating from the states of Bihar, Bengal, UP or even from the southern states of Chennai and Maharashtra portray a very grim picture. These people have no money left with them. Some state governments claim to have arranged for boarding and food for these ill-fated migrants, but these are not enough and appears simply of the nature of lip service. As in UP, Yogi Adityanath has resorted to this only for his image makeover. If the reports coming out of UP are to be relied, this initiative has miserably failed to ameliorate their condition.
Even a casual interaction with these people and the people living in isolation makes it explicit that most of them have been gripped with the negative thinking. This is worst threat the world fraternity faces today; people getting lost in negative thinking. Already the modern world has been facing the challenge of depression and now in the prevailing situation this would further aggravate.
Constantly checking the latest virus updates on the TV sets also has an adverse impact on the mental health. Unfortunately a person or a family living in isolation cannot engage in meaningful tasks. It has its limitation. There is no denying that Corona has filled life with a lot of unknowns and uncertainties. The people living in isolation are often haunted with the questions; Will we get sick? Will a family member or friend end up hospitalized? Will we lose our jobs? Will we need to cancel our wedding? How long will the virus be at the forefront of our everyday lives?
These psychological problems crop up from the sense of helplessness. This situation is really dangerous. For people with emotional and behavioural health issues, anxiety and social isolation can increase their mental illnesses.
Recently Lancet editor Dr Richard Horton observed; “numerous warnings were issued in medical journal but not heeded”. He feels that the National Health Service of UK could have prevented “chaos and panic” had the system not been left “wholly unprepared for this pandemic”.
Dr Horton wrote that the government’s Contain-Delay-Mitigate-Research plan had failed. He also expressed concerns over the government’s new Suppress-Shield-Treat-Palliate plan; “this plan, agreed far too late in the course of the outbreak, has left the NHS wholly unprepared for the surge of severely and critically ill patients that will soon come”.
In Italy, which has been the highest number of deaths, the people have now stopped singing and playing music from their balconies. They are simply shrinking into depression. A few days into Italy’s lockdown, people across the country sang and played music and came together to say “Everything will be alright” (Andrà tutto bene). Three weeks after, “They are no longer singing or dancing on the balconies,” said Salvatore Melluso, a priest at Caritas Diocesana di Napoli, a church-run charity in Naples. “Now people are more afraid – not so much of the virus, but of poverty. Many are out of work and hungry. There are now long queues at food banks.” There have been far fewer coronavirus deaths in Italy’s south compared with the worst-affected northern regions, but the pandemic is having a serious impact on livelihoods. Tensions are building across the poorest southern regions of Campania, Calabria, Sicily and Puglia as people run out of food and money. There have been reports of small shop owners being pressured to give food for free,.
The situation is also gradually turning worse in India. The poor and wage earners are left with no money. They are faced with the challenge of survival. They have been left to die. They are deep in psychological crisis.
Coronavirus crisis has exposed the ugly truth about celebrity culture and capitalism. It is a case of highest order of populism that the rich and famous are desperate to prove we are all in this together – in fact, the outbreak has highlighted just how false that is. While this is a difficult time for everyone, it has been particularly tough on the famous. They have been upstaged by a virus. An insight would reveal that they are more concerned of their image and social stature.
Celebrities being clueless is nothing new. Celebrity culture and capitalism are inextricably entwined. Apprehensions are also expressed that some criminal organisations are getting ready to exploit the situation. The people nevertheless are not confident of police taking control of the emerging scenario. Ironically police has been always found to be a cohort of these guys. Officials also worry that the mafia will take advantage of the rising poverty, swooping in to recruit people to its organisation.
People undoubtedly have tried to keep their spirits up at the beginning of the lockdown, but now their thoughts are returning towards the bitter reality of a terribly fragile situation. It is the failure of the political leadership that has really unnerved the people. Right wing Darwinian faith, survival of the fittest, is in full operation. No one knows what is in future. We have been taught that you don’t have to care about anyone outside your family circle. In today’s situation this has been a major disadvantage. People have been behaving in a self-centric manner. A news report emanating from the USA underlines that porno films have become quite popular with the rich and middle class people locked inside their houses. This has been the scenario across the world.
Prof Devi Sridhar, chair of global public health at the University of Edinburgh does not endorse the practice of putting people under lockdown. She says; “The lockdown only buys us time: to really defeat the virus we need mass testing.” She feels: “Leaders need to lead by example.” Speaking about UK’s prime minister, Boris Johnson she says; “ It wasn’t a good thing that he was telling people that he was going around shaking hands and being quite nonchalant about the virus.”
She said that instead of endless mass isolation or just waiting for a cure, the UK needs a data-driven, targeted approach to coronavirus testing. “After squandering valuable time to prepare for the spread of Covid-19 in February and the first half of March, the government made a dramatic U-turn and put the country into lockdown two weeks ago. But amid the drama of shutting down our entire way of life – with kids out of school, shops closed and millions working from home – we appear to have forgotten that lockdown itself is not the solution to coronavirus. It is simply a means of slowing its spread and buying time – while we race to catch up,” she said
According to her the real question facing Britain now is how to most effectively make up for lost time: “what can we really do to fight this instead of simply cowering in our homes and waiting for it to blow over? If things carry on much as they are now, one possible scenario is that we will find ourselves in an endless cycle of lockdown and release over the next year – while the population slowly acquires the virus and hopefully gains immunity.”