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Paranoia rises over uncertainties beyond coronavirus lockdown

As the country is trying to return to business as usual, the biggest concern that the callers have expressed on mental health helpline BMC-MPower 1on1 is about the uncertainty that stares at them beyond the lockdown

twitter-logoAjita Shashidhar | June 4, 2020 | Updated 12:50 IST
Paranoia rises over uncertainties beyond coronavirus lockdown

Anxiety, depression, stress as well domestic violence have been the most obvious fallout of India's prolonged lockdown to fight the deadly coronavirus pandemic. With businesses coming to a standstill, several industries have already announced job cuts while others are considering trimming down their workforce. Being closeted within the four walls of home for over 70 days, coupled with the fear of unemployment and loss of livelihood, has led to a host of mental health issues.

BMC-MPower 1on1 (a joint venture between the Government of Maharashtra, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation and mental health care organisation, MPower), a 24x7 helpline launched to offer mental health support during the lockdown, has received over 45,000 calls, ever since its launch in April. While 52 per cent of the calls were around anxiety issues, 22 per cent were for isolation and adjustment issues, 11 per cent of the calls were depression related and 5 per cent for sleep-related difficulties.

However, as the country is trying to return to business as usual in the Unlock 1.0 phase, the biggest concern that the callers have expressed on BMC-MPower 1on1 is about the uncertainty that stares at them beyond the lockdown. From anxieties related to how safe would it be to step out of home, returning to work, the commute, as well as work-life balance, Indians according to BMC-MPower 1on1 are paranoid about life post the lockdown.

"BMC-MPower has been able to address many health concerns during the government-mandated lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now that the lockdown is likely to be lifted in many parts of India, it is natural to feel anxious about what lies ahead. In the last two weeks, we have witnessed callers expressing concerns related to anxiety and uncertainty about what could be the new normal," says Neerja Birla, Founder and Chairperson, MPower. Going forward, the mental health service provider's new campaign would be #MPowerYourTomorrow, wherein it would focus on addressing anxieties and stress related to life in the new normal.

The most anxious lot, in fact, are the people between the age groups of 26-40 years, which constitute 55 per cent of the callers on the BMC-MPower 1on1 helpline. A recent Nielsen report on consumer behaviour during COVID-19 also shows that it is youngsters between 20 and 30 years of age who feel greater anxiety and loss of control than the 35-plus age group.

"Their nascent start in career and an upward trajectory is at halt. They are fearful around the uncertainty of pay cuts and job losses. They feel that this disruption could be a game-changer," says the Nielsen report. However, the mood among the 35-plus is one of 'This Too Shall Pass', and that is because they have witnessed situations like riots and emergency which had disrupted their lives but they had been able to bounce back.

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