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The Second Pandemic

THE SECOND PANDEMIC – Invisible and Neglected!


What a year it has been! What chaos! We are in the midst of two pandemics- one visible only under a microscope and the other entirely invisible!

Did you know that according to a recent research survey done in India, it was revealed that depression affects nearly 41.9% of women as compared to only 29.3% men! Also, if we look at the lifetime risk of anxiety disorders – even that is 2–3 times higher in females as compared to males.

Why is this so?

Traditionally, we as humans, have largely lived in a patriarchal society, with women’s health being a neglected affair for centuries, and more so, their mental health. Discussions around mental health of women are almost non-existent, and when they do take place, they largely revolve around violence, abuse and reproductive health. One thing we probably tend to forget is that somatic or bodily sufferings in women- aches and pains, fainting spells- are more often than not, a result of ill mental health. And these generally have as much of a psychological origin as do depression or anxiety.

There are multiple sociocultural, economic, legal and environmental factors in our community that affect women's mental health. Although truth and common sense tell us that any measurable change in attitudes towards mental health will come from a significant social change, a noteworthy point here would be that we, as women, need to take charge of our own health- both physical and mental.

Probably one of the biggest steps that can be taken is a change in the mindset. Since ages, women have equated ‘self-sacrifice’ with ‘self-neglect’, and put everyone else’s needs and wants before their own. But it is high time we unlearn that and start taking care of ourselves. Just like Paulo Coelho quotes- “Joy is not a sin, and sacrifice is not a virtue”.

Today, not just females, but our Indian society as a whole is grappling with mental health issues - one of the potential reasons for that is the breakdown of traditional family structures. Another reason could be the shift of friends and loved ones from physical to virtual space. Our social network has become strikingly non-physical, with the ‘healing touch’ evidently missing from our lives. And more so with the current social distancing in place!

Cabin fever and Coronaphobia are real! We are more depressed, more panicky and more distressed than ever.

In these times of crisis, I would strongly support re-visiting our roots - one of the oldest self-help books written in our culture - the Bhagwad Gita!

The 11th Shloka from the 2nd chapter goes as-

“Asochyan anvasochastvam Pragna-vadams cha bhashase gatasun agatasumscha n anusochanti panditah”,

This advises us to not worry about events beyond our control, and that wise men are those who do not lament on any mortal/perishable things. The Gita is a clear evidence that as Indians, our culture has always focused on prioritizing mental health. Numerous psychological discussions have understood that the words of Lord Krishna are not unlike a therapy session, in which we work on conflict resolution and converting our inactions (stemming from our suffering minds) into fruitful action!

In keeping with the 2020 WHO Mental Health Day theme of “Mental Health for All: Greater Investment- Greater Access”, today, let us all pledge to invest in mental health- let’s invest our time, energy, money and our hearts into improving our minds; let’s invest in psychiatric first-aid; let’s invest in tele-health to make the best of the current scenario using digitalization. Because if we don’t address mental health in a timely, impactful and cost-effective manner, we will be held guilty of ignoring this second pandemic by our next generation!