As Omicron Knocks On Our Doors, We Need To Prioritise Mental Wellbeing

US Teenage Girls Suicidal
Omicron mental health impact is something that not many people are talking about. After all it is a relatively new variant and scientists are still trying to understand the extent of damage it can cause. But for many people, Omicron’s rapid spread, backed by news and speculations over the impending third wave, is a trigger that could worsen their mental health issues. If you think the scare of Omicron is yet to show its impact, think again.

On December 3, a Kanpur-based Forensic Professor allegedly strangled his wife and then hammered his two children to death, over fear of “Omicron Doomsday”. The professor wrote in what is said to be a suicide note, “No more counting bodies now. I am consciously destroying myself by killing my family.” In a WhatsApp message to his brother, the professor said that he had taken the step due to depression. Three lives were lost, and the whereabouts of the professor aren’t known as of yet. Read more about the incident here.

Talking about mental health issues is sadly a luxury in a world where we are losing thousands of lives every single day due to the pandemic. Close home, we saw people gasping for oxygen, begging for life saving drugs and watching their loved ones lose the battle to this deadly disease helplessly. It was a mind-numbing experience, to which we also need to add the loss of money due to a crash in the job market, collapse of share markets and the preventive measures which forced us to stay at home as much as possible.

The year 2020 and its successor were not easy on us, and there is data to prove how it impacted our mental health. According to National Crime Records Bureau’s report from 2020 on Accidental Suicides and Deaths in India, cases of suicides saw a 10 percent jump as compared to the year 2019. The report says that ‘Family Problems’ and ‘Illness’ were the major causes of suicides, accounting for 33.6 percent and 18 percent of total suicides in the year, respectively. And mind you, this is the date from before the second wave struck us.

As cases of COVID-19 began to go down and more and more people got vaccinated, the world outside our homes began opening up to us again. Travel, eating out, shopping, meeting friends, visiting parents- all these things became a possibility again. It felt that life is going to return to the normality that left our lives early last year.

Today, India reported its third Omicron patient. Reports have suggested that the new coronavirus variant is three times more likely to cause reinfection. Another report from South Africa spoke about a surge in cases among children under the age of five in the country during its ongoing fourth wave. Every single development regarding Omicron finds its way to our mobile phone within a matter of seconds. But is that good or bad?

Could the hype and coverage around this new variant be doing us more harm than good? Do people need to be put on the edge of their seat, anticipate lockdown, fret over going through another deadly wave when we don’t even know how deadly this new variant is? It seems like the lack of credible information about what the virus can actually do, and what we fear Omicorn will do is put our collective mental health at grave risk. Yes, we need to mask up and we need to vaccinate. But does Omicron need coverage to an extent that it can push people into depression or trigger anxiety?

In tackling one pandemic, we can end up triggering another one- the kind that moves amongst us silently, and goes unnoticed or willingly/unwillingly ignored, until it’s too late.

Views expressed are the author’s own.

Suggested Reading: 

Third Case of Omicron Variant Of COVID-19 Detected In India

Mumbai International Airport’s New Travel Guidelines Amid Omicron Scare: Here’s A List

Why We Need To Take Precautions For Omicron: Better Safe (And Quick) Than Sorry

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