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#JamesDonaldson on #MentalHealth – #Lockdown Takes A Toll On Persons With Pre-existing #MentalIllness

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Those suffering from schizophrenia, bipolar disorder say the period has been difficult

Experts are of the view that the prolonged #COVID-19 #lockdown has led to a deep sense of distress among the public. This is particularly so for those with pre-existing #mentalillnesses.

Reduced access to medication and drastic changes to routine could lead to relapses for those who have #mentalillnesses, say experts. Those with #mentalillnesses including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder who spoke to The Hindu say that the five months since #lockdown began have been difficult.

A 32 year-old #woman diagnosed with schizophrenia says that the #lockdown has placed her in a setting where she has no choice but to interact with extended family who are unaware of her #mentalillness. “It is difficult because everyone tends to be insensitive. They write my #mentalillness off as mood swings. It also becomes difficult for me to virtually connect to periodic sessions with my psychiatrist online,” she says.

The daughter of a 82 year-old #man with dementia says that it was particularly difficult in procuring medication for him during the initial phases of the #lockdown, leading to worsening of his #mentalhealth. “Although it is easier now, we have to ensure that the medicines are ordered in bulk and in advance to avoid any major issues,” she says.

#JamesDonaldson notes:

Welcome to the “next chapter” of my life… being a voice and an advocate for #mentalhealthawarenessandsuicideprevention, especially pertaining to our younger generation of students and student-athletes.

Getting men to speak up and reach out for help and assistance is one of my passions. Us men need to not suffer in silence or drown our sorrows in alcohol, hang out at bars and strip joints, or get involved with drug use.

Having gone through a recent bout of #depression and #suicidalthoughts myself, I realize now, that I can make a huge difference in the lives of so many by sharing my story, and by sharing various resources I come across as I work in this space.  #http://bit.ly/JamesMentalHealthArticle

A detailed document by the #NationalInstituteofMentalHealth and Neurosciences, Bangalore, titled ‘#MentalHealth in the times of #COVID-19 #Pandemic- Guidance for General Medical and Specialised #MentalHealth Care Settings’ focuses on various aspects of #mentalhealth including those who have already been diagnosed with #mentalillnesses.

The document states that any pre-existing psychiatric conditions like psychosis, mood disorders, #anxiety spectrum disorders, sleep disorders and many others, can exacerbate during the quarantine. The document adds that one must acknowledge the feeling of boredom, #loneliness, feeling sad, stressed, confused, loss of personal freedom and guilt.

“Persons with pre-existing #mentalillnesses are particularly disadvantaged during the #lockdowns. For persons with #mentalillness or epilepsy, reduced access to medication can lead to relapse of symptoms, as can the compounded #stress. For persons with substance use disorders, sudden withdrawal leading to seizures, delirium, agitation, and even #suicide have been described,” the document states.

Nandini Murali, an activist and director of SPEAK, an organisation that aims to create safe spaces for those impacted by #suicide loss says that she has come across a few persons who have confided in her about #suicidalideation but are yet to reach out to professionals that she has put them in touch with. “The full impact of the #pandemic is yet to set in. We must ensure that the #stigma regarding reaching out for support is avoided,” she says.

G.Gurubharathy who works with M.S.Chellamuthu Trust and Research Foundation, says that they are still tending to #mentalhealth emergencies through their helpline and treating cases as well. Much of their consultation has shifted online for the protection of patients as well as their employees but he says that there is a steady stream of patients. “We even deliver our drugs online,” he says.

He says that it is important to keep in mind the transitional natures of these disaster-like situations to tide through difficult times. “Although we have been advised to keep physical distance, we must ensure we use our social connections to ensure that we work our way through the #pandemic,” he says.

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