Dr. E.S. Krishnamoorthy , Behavioural Neurologist & Neuropsychiatrist, Founder of Buddhi Clinic in conversation with Dr. Pratima Murthy, Dr. Shekhar Seshadri, and Dr. Soumitra Pathare.
The world has experienced a surge in the concern over mental health during the Covid-19 times, the concern has been to the extent that words like pandemic, covid, lockdown, quarantine and many more have come to be associated with ‘mental health.’ Dr. E.S Krishnamoorthy, Behavioural Neurologist & Neuropsychiatrist, Founder of Buddhi Clinic, virtually sat down with Dr. Shekhar Seshadri, child psychiatrist, a senior professor in the department of child and adolescent psychiatrist and dean of the behavioural sciences division; Dr. Soumitra Pathare, a consultant psychiatrist and director of the center for mental health, law and policy: Indian law society, Pune; Dr. Pratima Murthy, Professor and Head of the Department of Psychiatry, NIMHANS.
Dr. E.S Krishnamoorthy began the panel discussion by pointing out the irony of a world which changed due to a virus instead of wars and governments. He also noticed that the thing that changed the most is the impact that the pandemic has had on the mental health of people and awareness about the importance of mental health.
“There is no health without mental health,” Dr. Pratima Murthy observed. She explained that the initial stage of the lockdown was met with a positive response but it was soon overpowered by anxiety over sickness, family and hospitalization. She proceeded to exemplify the following with a personal experience while simultaneously pointing out that the most difficult part of the whole experience was the loneliness of the mental trauma, sickness and death due to the pandemic. Dr. Seshadri added onto the topic raised by Dr. Pratima and discussed the patterns of coping and stress of children during Covid-19 and their lack of understanding regarding the pandemic, angst about hospitalization and grief over loss of their parents, social interactions and predictability. He also mentions “intolerance of unpredictability.” Dr. Soumitra Pathare took over and talked about the emergence of awareness of mental health in Middle class India and the hoarding of the meager human resources for mental health by the privileged class of people.
Dr. E.S Krishnamoorthy questioned Dr. Pratima Murthy on the impact of the pandemic on women and she explained that there is a treatment gap and the services are not gender sensitive along with economic disparities, multiple roles expected of them and the stigma around seeking help. She also talked about the increase in domestic violence and the burden over working women to take care of their children, compared to working men.
When questioned by Dr. E.S Krishnamoorthy about the impact of the pandemic over the special needs children, Dr. Seshadri responded that pandemic and covid have a disproportionate response on the more vulnerable people. He carried on by explaining the difference between equality and equity and related it to the issues faced by the special needs children. Contrasted to him, Dr. Pathare discussed the discrimination faced by adults with mental illnesses and the ignorance of the authorities, even during covid, to include them in the ‘at-risk’ population until ordered to do so by the SCI. Contrary to that, the hospital of Dr. Pratima made sure to protect the individuals with mental illnesses and recognise them as “at-risk” individuals.
The discussion moved onto the vulnerable groups of India, Dr. Pratima talked about addicts and their problems; girl child and children with lack of technology; chemical and behavioral addictions. Dr. Seshadri stated that developmental psychology hasn’t considered the evolutionary impact of the Pandemic on the young children.
The panel moved onto the subject of suicide, domestic violence and alcohol consumption as well as the connection between the three. Dr. Pathare talked about the dependency on alcohol and the lack of alcohol without access to treatment during the lockdown.
The discussion concluded with highlighting the positive aspects of technology and the interconnectedness it provided to people during the times of stress and anxiety. The panel proved that the existence of Covid-19 had a toll on not only the physical well being of the citizens but also the mental health.