Two years into the pandemic, we have witnessed its impact globally covering every aspect of life. Mental health took a toll when we were forced to stay indoors and work from home.
Before we delve into analysing the offshoots of the pandemic one has to begin with recognising the very serious situation that existed even before the pandemic in India. The government’s National Mental Health Survey reported that about 10 percent of adults meet diagnostic criteria for a mental health condition (ranging from mood and anxiety disorders to severe mental illness). The Global Burden of Disease study estimated that nearly 200 million people in India have experienced a mental disorder, nearly half of whom suffer from depressive or anxiety disorders. India accounts for more than a third of the female suicides globally, nearly a fourth of all male suicides, and suicide has been the leading cause of death in young Indians.
It created new barriers for people already suffering from mental illnesses and substance use disorder. A KFF Health Tracking Poll from July 2020 also found that many adults are reporting specific negative impacts on their mental health and well-being, such as difficulty sleeping (36%) or eating (32%), increases in alcohol consumption or substance use (12%), and worsening chronic conditions (12%), due to worry and stress over the coronavirus. The pandemic led to isolation amd job loss linking it to poor mental health outcomes. Multitudes of researches have been conducted worldwide exploring the negative impact on mental health. However, this should not be the only perspective as it has strengthened mental heath in several ways.
Work of Positive Psychologists have been noteworthy. This new research, published in The Journal of Positive Psychology, by Lea Waters, et. al. shows how positive skills, emotional states, and practices can help young people and adults cope with and continue to grow through the pandemic. Another study conducted in China immediately after and before covid emerged life satisfaction and happiness were present even at the face of depression and anxiety. The study also highlighted that people can endure high levels of stress while simultaneously experiencing positive mental heath.
It went on to further illuminate that grit buffered against psychological distress. Despite social-distancing measures, social connection remained intact. This study suggested that social connectedness played a bolstering role in maintaining mental health.
Abandoning the idea that “things will go back to normal” and facing the changes taking place with flexibility mitigates the onset of psychopathology.
The human being by nature is extremely flexible facilitating adjustment to the reality that change will become the new normality (Rossi et al., 2020). In Lao Tzu’s words, “Water is fluid, soft, and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield. As a rule, what is fluid, soft, and yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard. This is another paradox: what is soft is strong.” But it takes time.