Mental health experts experience extreme upsurge in acute grief cases

The experts also informed that they are witnessing post-COVID relapses of earlier illness like steroid-induced mania, fog, encephalopathy and brain fatigue.

New Delhi: As the devastating second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic is gradually subsiding, mental health experts are observing a surge in number of patients putting up with acute “grief or bereavement” after suffering loss of the loved ones.

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According to mental health experts, grief or bereavement is a feeling of permanent separation due to loss or death and is different from separation anxiety. During the second wave, the country has witnessed an unprecedented upsurge in the death toll. Experts said the intensity of the sense of a permanent loss varied in patients depending on one or multiple deaths in families.

“More than separation anxiety, what has grappled the country is grief and bereavement. Such grief was there in the previous disaster as well, however, the present situation is grimmer,” said Dr Rajiv Mehta, vice-chairperson, Institute of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences, Sir Gangaram Hospital.

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“With restricted mobility, family members are failing to console each other in person which in return is affecting them with a lot of anxiety and depression. In addition, this time there is anger toward the collective failure of the system, which is compounding the grief,” he added.

The experts also informed that they are witnessing post-COVID relapses of earlier illness like steroid-induced mania, fog, encephalopathy and brain fatigue. Experts also observed that symptoms of patients with pre-existing conditions worsened due to increased isolation, poor medication adherence and loss of social support during these times.

“Patients with pre-existing mental illness especially severe ones like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder are most adversely affected during the COVID pandemic and not enough attention has been paid to them,” said Dr Manushree Gupta, Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry, Vardhaman Mahavir Medical College (VMMC) and Safdarjung Hospital.

“Mental illness was also not listed in the list of comorbidities which made people eligible for vaccination in the 45 years and above age group in the second stage of vaccination in the country. Patients with common mental disorders like depression and anxiety disorders have also greatly suffered due to the above-mentioned factors,” Dr Gupta added.

The country in late April was in a state of shock by the horrifying images that were being reported from hospitals and crematoriums. There was an unprecedented surge in mortality rate during the second wave of the pandemic and the COVID death toll in the country has mounted to 3,51,309.

India reported less than one lakh new COVID-19 cases for the first time after 63 days in the last 24 hours, said the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on Tuesday. With 86,498 new cases reported in the last 24 hours, the daily COVID cases are the lowest in 66 days. However, the country also reported 2,123 new fatalities in the last 24 hours.

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