UP: COVID-19 takes toll on mental health

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At a village in Barabanki district, 37-year-old Vivek allegedly poisoned his wife and three children and then took his own life. And some 250 km away in Banda, migrant labourers Chutku and Rambabu killed themselves in their native villages.

The three cases tell the stories of people unable to cope with the stress, often related to unemployment, during these tough times brought about by the coronavirus pandemic.

Like lakhs of others forced to head home after losing their jobs in the cities due to the coronavirus lockdown, both Chutku (33) and Rambabu (40) had returned to their villages.

Chutku worked as a labourer in Haryana and was found hanging from the ceiling fan in his room at Aliha village.

Rambabu too was found hanging at his residence. A daily wager, Rambabu had returned from Delhi during the lockdown.

Their family members later said both were out of work and under stress.

In Barabanki’s Safedabad, Vivek tried starting a business, but failed.

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Forced by financial problems, the jobless man allegedly killed his wife Anamika, daughters Piyam (10) and Ritu (7), and son Bablu (5) and then hanged himself at his house in June.

According to police, Vivek in his suicide note said he was taking the extreme step as he could not give any “sukh” to his family due to financial problems.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, there had been a lot of insecurity as the disease was new and the methods adopted for dealing with it, including the lockdown, directly hit the people, said Dr Adarsh Tripathi.

Economic activities came to a halt, businesses were shut down, insecurity about the future, jobs, marriages and education all had a direct psychological impact, said the additional professor at King George’s Medical University’s Department of Psychiatry.

He said the situation also led to loneliness. Social interactions to deal with stress were affected. Hospitals focused only on COVID-19.

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All this had a psychological impact and those who could not deal with it thought of taking the extreme step, the doctor said, adding that 10 to 15 per cent of the general population is psychologically vulnerable and needed good mental health care.

The problem is that though the number of those wanting medical advice is much more, health care services are restricted as OPDs are not functioning and only telemedicine services are being provided.

He said the analysis of the data in the past two to three months shows that of the 26,000 people provided telemedicine services by the university, around 7,000 sought help from the Psychiatry Department.

Earlier if 10,000 came to the university every day, only 300 were attended by the department, he said, adding that those in the age group of 15 to 25 years are most vulnerable to self-harm and suicidal ideas.

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There is, however, no data revealing how many suicides have taken place during the pandemic.

In March, two people reportedly committed suicide in Hapur and Bareilly districts fearing that they have contracted coronavirus.

The Hapur victim reportedly left a suicide note before slitting his throat with a blade, asking his family to undergo coronavirus tests.

The Bareilly youth committed suicide by jumping in front of a train. According to an eye witness, the youth had been sitting at the railway station and was repeatedly saying that he was a coronavirus patient.

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