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At Panchkula civil hospital: Huge rush on Day 1 at psychiatric OPD, docs blame Covid fatigue

The rise in mental health related issues amid the second wave has been significantly higher in both healthcare workers as well as the general population.

Written by Pallavi Singhal | Panchkula |
June 10, 2021 1:43:30 am
Most doctors were struggling with anxiety disorders brought on by Covid, panic issues and substance abuse. (Representational)

THE PSYCHIATRY OPD of Panchkula Civil Hospital saw a huge rush on Wednesday, the first day of reopening, with all 50 slots getting booked within an hour. The rise in mental health related issues amid the second wave has been significantly higher in both healthcare workers as well as the general population.

“Wednesday was the first day that we re-started our OPDs with a maximum of 50 slots, supposed to run for two hours. But the response was overwhelming with all slots getting filled. We had more than 15 people facing covid-related anxiety disorders. This percentage has increased sharply,” said Dr MP Sharma, head of the Psychiatry department at the civil hospital.

While most people with Covid-related mental health issues are those who did not contract the virus, cases of anxiety and OCD- especially related to cleanliness have increased, said Dr Sharma. “We are getting several cases of stress due to unemployment as well as cases of marital disputes much more frequently than before,” he noted.

Healthcare workers severely affected

As the second Covid wave set in from late March, the civil hospital’s psychiatry department began its exclusive services. “I was working in Covid wards as well and despite being a psychiatrist, was feeling the brunt of it. Knowing that others must also be feeling the same way, I discussed it with DGHS and we started the consultation services in Panchkula,” said Dr Sharma.

The consultation soon shifted online as OPDs were shut down. The calls started soon enough and the department has since helped more than 50 doctors and nursing staff. “The number is quite significant. Of the total staff of almost 300 healthcare workers working on Covid, more than 50 called with acute mental health issues. At least two doctors of the department were tasked with helping them,” added Dr Sharma.

Most doctors were struggling with anxiety disorders brought on by Covid, panic issues and substance abuse.

Stretched thin due to the high patient load, a common worry the healthcare staff faced was that of taking the virus home. Insomnia along with a constant feeling of helplessness also rose significantly. “They would witness up to ten deaths a day. No one was prepared for that. The constant deaths in dilapidated conditions, being in a high-risk zone while attempting to save the patients catalysed a chain of events with respect to worries regarding family members which led to mental breakdowns,” he added.

Several healthcare workers also complained of continuous trauma flash-backs. “While many are unable to sleep due to the trauma and get flashbacks, several others have had dreams of running around, trying to save people ,” said Dr Sharma.

Comparing the effects of the first and the second wave, he noted, “The impact on mental health disorders was significantly high in this wave. While I would get ten calls in the first wave, which itself was quite alarming, the number exceeded by five times this time. The brunt is high as covid fatigue sets in. There is significant burnout as we prepare for a third wave.”

Increased screen time affecting children

“We have even started seeing children suffering from issues brought on by current situation. A 6-year-old’s parents recently visited me, suspecting that their daughter had mental retardation and hyperactivity disorder. They complained that their ward did not understand what they were saying, would only speak when she wanted to, and was always moving around,” recounted Dr Sharma.

An examination of the child proved that she had age-appropriate intellect level. “It was that her screen time had increased so much that she was not interacting with anyone,” he noted.

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