We Have a Covid-19 Mental Health Crisis on Hand. Kerala Medical Student’s Tragic Suicide is Proof

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We Have a Covid-19 Mental Health Crisis on Hand. Kerala Medical Student’s Tragic Suicide is Proof

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

The coronavirus pandemic is not only leaving a physical impact on those that are infected, but it is also extracting a heavy mental cost from those in isolation and quarantine. Spending days on end with no one to talk to or have any conversation with, can be both alienating and stressful. Cases of mental health have seen a sharp rise across the world since we’ve been hit with the coronavirus pandemic. In a tragic incident, a 20-year-old medical student from Kerala, who was under home quarantine after returning from overseas, took her life by hanging.

Krishna Priya, hailing from Paipad near Changanassery in Kottayam district, was studying for MBBS in Russia and had returned home on July 9. As per government protocol, she had to be home quarantined for two weeks. To facilitate this, her parents and siblings moved to a relative’s place, leaving her alone at home.

Krishna spoke to her family last on Monday, and wasn’t responding to their calls or messages evening onward. Later that night, her father broke the window of the locked house, and to his horror, discovered his daughter hanging from the ceiling.

The following day, her samples were tested for Covid-19 and were found to be negative. No suicide note was found, and it is unclear why she took the extreme step, however, it is believed that it was the stress of home isolation that got to her.

The World Health Organization has encouraged people to continue socialising at a distance, such as via phone or online platforms. “The new realities of working from home, temporary unemployment, home-schooling of children, and lack of physical contact with other family members, friends and colleagues take time to get used to. Adapting to lifestyle changes such as these, and managing the fear of contracting the virus and worry about people close to us who are particularly vulnerable, are challenging for all of us. They can be particularly difficult for people with mental health conditions,” it said, on its website.

The Kerala government has launched a 24X7 mental health helpline for those who had returned to the state and needed expert help. The counsellors help them deal with anxiety, depression, sleeplessness and psychological issues. The government also launched an “Ottakkalla Oppamundu” scheme to curb suicidal tendencies in children. Sadly, the Kerala medical student could not benefit from it.

State governments across the country need to ensure that mental health helpline numbers are in place and adequate help can be provided to those in need round the clock. A recent spike in cases of suicides, especially among teenagers, tell us that we acutely need it.

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