Mobile-based survey rolled out in Himachal to assess Covid’s impact on mental health

With around 500 people committing suicide during the lockdown, the Himachal Pradesh State Mental Health Authority in collaboration with the Himachal Pradesh University department of psychology is conducting a mobile-based survey in Shimla, Mandi, and Chamba in order to formulate a strategy to deal with mental health issues and suicidal tendencies arising due to the pandemic.

Around 75,000 people from the three districts will be sent a questionnaire. Respondents will be asked to answer 10 questions such as whether they had lost their job due to the pandemic and if they had experienced suicidal thoughts or suicidal tendencies during the pandemic. The survey sample will include respondents below the age of 25, people between the age of 26 to 60 and above 60 years, residing in both rural and urban areas. Within the five categories, the sample will include government employees, self-employed people, unemployed people, and students. The survey will be conducted over three weeks.

‘Expect at least 5,000 responses in first week’

HP State Mental Health Authority chief executive officer (CEO) Dr Sanjay Pathak said the study will be used to plan, design and implement strategies to tackle mental health problems.

“The questionnaire is anonymous and the responses will be kept confidential. We will first wait for a week to see if we are getting sufficient responses. If we receive less than 5,000 responses, the questionnaire will be sent to another set of people,” he said.

Since the Covid outbreak in Himachal and the lockdown imposed to contain its spread, there has been a spike in suicides in the state with around 500 people taking their lives during the lockdown. The weekly suicide rate had increased from 10 in January to 25 in July. Police said most suicides had taken place in Shimla, Hamirpur and Kangra districts.

18-25 age group most vulnerable: Police

As per the police people between the ages 18 and 35 are most vulnerable to suicide. The most common reasons for taking the extreme step are financial crisis, unemployment, marital issues, bankruptcy, drug addiction, health issues or illness, failure in examinations, love affairs, or family problems.

Indira Gandhi Medical College (IGMC) psychiatry department head Dr Dinesh Dutt Sharma said mental health problems, including suicide, had increased during the pandemic. “Unfortunately, most people do not seek treatment due to lack of awareness, stigma associated with mental disorders and limited availability of treatment.”

‘70%-80% people who die by suicide have psychosis’

Sharma said, “Approximately 70–80% people who commit suicide are likely to have psychosis. Depression is the most common psychiatric condition associated with suicide. Therefore, early detection of depression and suicidal behaviour is important for prevention. Some early signs of suicidal tendencies are being alone, talking about suicide, threatening to kill oneself, searching for ways to commit suicide and saying goodbye to close family members and friends, and distributing valuable possessions.These signs should be taken seriously and such people or their relatives should immediately seek assistance.”

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