By: Mohit Raj, Founder, Tycia Foundation
The hell broke loose on the cusp of March & April 2021, while we were still recovering from the loss, pain, grief, and unpreparedness of COVID-19 wave-I and the wave-II hit us even aggressively. People were dropping dead like flies, the cremation grounds were overwhelmed, pyres burning on the roads, everyone was grappling to comprehend the mayhem around them and the entire city was mourning and shaking in fear. The hospitals were overcrowded, the healthcare staff was overworked, exhausted, numbed witnessing the loss at the scale.
The World Health Organization has been continuously stretching upon the magnificent effect of the global pandemic on the well-being and mental health of people. The impact was felt differently among the different populations and professional groups. Among these, groups of frontline workers, health practitioners, and medical staff have faced additional challenges to understand, absorb, and deal with the changes that COVID-19 brought to their routine and practices. The health workers were struggling to strike a balance and draw the boundary between their personal and professional front as it became demanding, especially since they had no cushion and time to reflect and process their grief. The pandemic’s effect soon became a turf war between the mental health of the surviving members and the deteriorating physical health of their loved ones. Many health workers while recuperating from the COVID, were found on the brink of emotional collapse.
COVID left its deep marks physiologically as well as psychologically. While they were trying to cope with the enormity of such a challenging situation, fear of contracting the infections to themselves and their family members was mounting in them. A high rise in psychological distress, burnout, stress, anxieties, and breeding loneliness.I spoke to several healthcare practitioners and medical staff placed at various government and hospitals while serving to provide masks and PPE kits outside the emergency wards of these hospitals. During the multiple interactions and being the first-hand witness to the effects on the frontline workers and health care practitioners the concerns became more legit. These hospitals were experiencing the influx of patients, the high number of deaths and healthcare professionals were providing not just healthcare but emotional support to grieving families while working relentlessly, with endless hours of work, and were sleepless and tired. The World Health Organisation also supports the claim that due to lockdown, self-isolation and quarantine have resulted in increased loneliness, anxiety, depression, insomnia, self-harm or suicidal attempts 21% increase in mental illnesses in the country since the coronavirus outbreak.
The urgency to provide support to the healthcare ecosystem and to render psychosocial support to the survivors and healthcare professionals started seeming an obvious solution and extremely pertinent. During an evening catch up call with one of our funding partners and senior, Farhad Sahab from MANKIND PHARMA, our anxieties and concerns echoed. 36 hours later, we came up with an intervention of providing extra hands at the hospitals and providing psychosocial support to COVID survivors, their families and healthcare professionals. We placed 15 trained frontliners at GIMS, Noida; Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan Hospital, Delhi and at newly sprung up COVID care facilities. A central helpline to provide psycho-social services through telephone-based counselling in response to the COVID-19 outbreak was set up with MINDPIPER, our mental health partner’s expertise.
Psychosocial interventions explicitly helped to provide strategies that helped patients and the healthcare community to understand the potential impact of the virus and how to deal with the stigma and discrimination faced by COVID-19 positive patients which were also the reasons of budding mental health issues among people. Most of the people who have received psychosocial support either through counselling or therapies have expressed their need of receiving continued support even after being fully recovered through COVID-19 symptoms. During the sessions, it became evident that it is important for people to understand and absorb and react to the stress in their caregivers and community members, which unavoidably was affecting their well-being.
The major aim of the intervention was to provide basic psychosocial support to people who have tested positive for COVID-19, through the panel of qualified and experienced well-being counsellors. Counselling sessions were planned using the guidelines provided by ICMR having specific components of Psychosocial First Aid (PFA) such as listening with no prior judgments, providing reassurance and covid related information; and encouraging home-based relaxation therapies. The intervention was unique as it does not wait for a call, instead, the list is gathered for the COVID-19 positive people and support calls were made to them for checking on their psychosocial status and providing the information and daily well-being activity through counselling in the form of counselling. Most of the time people testing positive are relieved to get such a call as the counsellor ensures their confidentiality and gives them constant resilient tips to manage their stress on daily intervals.
The entire experience left me with reflections and assurance that it can’t be overemphasized and that meaningful and timely collaborations among implementing organisations, technical experts and funding partners to quickly offer solutions in these dire circumstances can yield great results. The interventions proved to be helpful in offering the survivors and health care workers’ timely psychosocial first aid. The trust in the power of the collaboration came to our immediate relief at the time when this idea needed support.
With these ongoing changes and predictions of the third wave, it is significant for teams and organisations to come together and work towards making a difference, not in health sectors but putting continuous stress upon ensuring the positive well-being of communities. We largely need to reinforce the importance of building a community where each of us has the capacity to develop our resilient power during critical and complex situations. These continuous supportive ecosystems will be beneficial for improving the stress-handling situations among generations and they can develop active solutions not only for themselves but for all others who are part of their communities.
Views of the author are personal and do not necessarily represent the website’s views.