Eighteen per cent of people in Himachal Pradesh have been feeling sad and irritable most of the time and 15 per cent have been facing sleep problems, according to a recent survey held in the state to assess the influence of the ongoing Covid pandemic on mental health of the public.
Around 5,200 people from three districts – Shimla, Mandi and Chamba – participated in the mobile-based survey conducted by the HP State Mental Health Authority from November 18 to December 8. The respondents were asked about their mental health in the two weeks preceding the survey.
Fifty-one per cent of the respondents said that they had been getting more anxious and sad after reading Covid-related messages on the social media, and 24 per cent of them said that they had been preoccupied with the idea of getting infected with Covid.
A total of 2.42 per cent respondents contemplated suicide, among whom some also reported having tried to “put their suicidal ideas into action”. Only about four per cent respondents sought pyschiatric consultation to reduce their anxiety or depression during the pandemic, the survey found.
As many as 43 per cent people said that they were more worried than usual about the future of their families and themselves, and 40 per cent were worried about the financial loss incurred during the Covid-induced lockdown.
Based on the survey, the mental health authority has recommended strengthening mental health services at the district level, ensuring sufficient beds for psychiatric patients in health facilities, setting up of satellite clinics on mental health, training field health staff in handling and identifying patients with psychological disorders, verbal autopsy in suicide cases to ascertain the circumstances leading to suicide, and financial assistance to patients contemplating suicide who seek psychiatric consultation.
In August last year, the Himachal Pradesh Police had reported a sharp spike in the number of suicide cases in the state during the pandemic. Even before the pandemic, Himachal had reported a high prevalence of bipolar disorder, according to a nationwide study published in The Lancet Psychiatry in 2019. Roughly one in seven Indians suffered from a psychological disorder in 2017, the study had found.