German State Minister Kills Himself. The Coronavirus Can Take a Mental Toll – But There’s Help


German State Minister Kills Himself. The Coronavirus Can Take a Mental Toll – But There’s Help

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

The Coronavirus pandemic has resulted in over seven lakh cases worldwide leading to thousands of deaths, billions of dollars lost in value, and entire countries in partial or total lockdown. While the costs associated with physical health and the economy are apparent and humongous, there is also a mental health crisis simmering underneath.

There is anxiety about the future as most of us are home all day, just refreshing our screens and watching the human toll pile up. The world can seem glum when all you read is one horrific article after another. Many have either children studying abroad or relatives living in other parts of the world that they are worried about, knowing fully well that they can’t physically help them, with travel restrictions in place. The helplessness can get to you. Then there are doctors, nurses and healthcare workers who are subject to turmoil and misery all around them, with coronavirus cases and deaths piling up. With constant communication from multiple sources, and thanks to WhatsApp University, there is now also panic and anxiety around everyday behaviour and what one should or shouldn’t do.

If the coronavirus has proved anything, it is that health issues don’t distinguish between the rich and the poor. And the world was witness to a shocking such case last night, after finance minister of the German state of Hesse, Thomas Schäfer committed suicide after being “deeply worried” about the coronavirus crisis.

State premier Volker Bouffier issued a statement saying, “His main concern was whether he could manage to fulfill the huge expectations of the population, especially in terms of financial aid. For him, there was clearly no way out. He was desperate, and so he had to leave us. That has shocked us, has shocked me.”

A few days back, an Italian nurse killed herself after testing positive from coronavirus and worrying she had infected others. Daniela Trezzi was working at a hospital in Lombardy, the worst-affected region of Italy.

Back home, there was a case in Kandivali, Mumbai where a man killed his younger brother because he stepped out during the lockdown. The accused questioned the victim and his wife about the urgency to step out and buy groceries amid the lockdown. The argument turned violent, leading to the death.

Government agencies and institutions have been vocal in addressing the issue. Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has taken the lead in communicating the importance of mental health during the coronavirus outbreak.

A multidisciplinary team in Kerala has been providing mental health support for those in quarantine and isolation.

The Ministry of Health & Family Welfare of the Government of India has been proactive on the issue, putting out videos from health experts on how to manage your mental health and well-being during the lockdown. Amongst other things, experts advised to have a daily routine, engage in activities of choice, minimise watching news, play indoor games, keep yourself physically active by walking around the house or doing yoga/exercises and have a healthy diet and sleep routine.

The Ministry also announced a toll free number 080-46110007 that has been set up by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) in Bengaluru for people with mental health issues.

As medical experts have repeated time and again, stay physically healthy, stay healthy, stay safe.