Why are we not talking about pandemic mental health crisis? The last ten days feel like a nightmare to me. My husband is in a hospital battling a COVID-19 infection, while I care for my COVID positive sister at home. I am also a caregiver to my seven-year-old daughter who thankfully tested negative for the disease along with me.
The crisis at home may take months to fully resolve, even after my partner is discharged from the hospital. Just yesterday, a relative of mine suggested that I should seriously consider therapy for myself. Which got me thinking about the mental health crisis COVID-19 patients and caregivers have been silently enduring.
With a tall tally of deaths, horrid tales of government mismanagement, lack of medications, oxygen and other medical resources, mental health seems like an insignificant topic to write on. People are losing loved ones all over the country, images from crematoriums, hospitals and mortuaries are giving us nightmares. Who cares about those who have healed, or are helping others heal. Does their battle matter, when compared to the lives lost so tragically and prematurely. The havoc raised by COVID-19 second wave in India feels so unfair, but the sad truth is, it will leave each one of us with life longs scars and fears.
Those who are left behind will forever carry these tales of tragedies and these communal and personal ordeals of dealing with COVID-19. If and when this pandemic is over, the mental health crisis will continue to plague us. My fear is that we may not care enough or will be too tired from this health crisis to focus properly on mental health.
One of the reasons keeping many people from seeking help for mental health issues is guilt and shame. You survive, your symptoms were mild, or you didn’t have to run around for hospital beds and oxygen cylinders. Why are you having anxiety issues then? Do you even “deserve” to have mental health issues?
Well, no one should have to endure desperation brought on by mismanagement of the COVID-19 second wave, but this doesn’t mean people who didn’t suffer grievous consequences should belittle their mental health issues. The pandemic has affected us all differently, and no two minds function in the same way. There is no parameter to measure grief, panic, anxiousness, anger, frustration and fear. This is why it seems misplaced to draw a comparative study with tragedies being suffered by others, to decided whether you or I deserve mental health care or not. If you have access to it, if you feel the need, then take it with both hands. And I say this as someone who has no space for mental health care right now.
These last few day, I have had recurrent nightmares about running around to fetch oxygen cylinders for my loved one. I would get up almost every hour at night to check my phone, just to ensure I hadn’t missed an SOS call or message from him. My stomach turns and my chest begins to hurt every time he faces a new health issue due to the infection. But I literally have no space to talk it out. I am sharing my room with my little one, and it will be unfair to unload my mental health issues to a therapist in front of her. No parent would want to do that to their child and am no different.
When this crisis is over, and when I have the luxury of space for myself, I will seek help, that is a promise I made to myself last week. And so should anyone who knows they need mental health care. Do not hesitate, do not feel guilty or shy or sorry for wanting care, especially for your mind. This ordeal has been overwhelming, but we owe it to our future to atleast try and heal. Right now it may seem like an impossible task, but maybe a couple of years down the line, we may all feel differently.
The views expressed are the author’s own.