It is needless to say that the coronavirus pandemic has had devastating impacts on economy, public health, social life and many other areas globally following the breakout of the virus disease in December last year. Even in the face of lockdowns and various other containment measures, the world has seen a rapid transmission of COVID-19 posing a serious threat to the human civilisation itself. As the contagion has battered the world economy, the number of people losing the sources of their livelihood has been increasing considerably. Medical scientists from several developed nations have already initiated the process of developing vaccines against the potential killer virus disease. However, it is not sure when they will be successful in creating such vaccines. With no possible solution to the ever worsening economic and health problems in sight, people have now been increasingly suffering from numerous psychological problems such as panic, stress, anxiety and depression globally.
Having a poor economy and weak healthcare system, Nepal has been passing through tough times after the outbreak of the pandemic. The country has witnessed increased public health concerns with a rapid rise in the number of COVID-19 cases and subsequent deaths. This has caused a lot of panic and anxiety among those infected and their families, and low-income people, especially wage-based labourers. One of the main concerns of the infected lot is that they may not be able to get proper medical treatment. Besides, the growing stigma and social discrimination against such persons is also worrying them.
With the enforcement of lockdowns, self-isolation, quarantine and social distancing rules, there have been reduced interactions among people. Eventually, this has led to deterioration of their physical, mental, social and spiritual health. About five and a half months have passed since the imposition of the nationwide lockdown. During this period, cinema halls, gyms, health clubs, schools, colleges, universities and museums have remained closed. People have even been stopped from gathering for cultural, social or religious activities due to the fear of infection. Though there are no exact data and information about the suicidal cases reported in the wake of the nationwide lockdown in Nepal, experts say that more people have committed suicide. News reports had it that several overseas-returnees, who were infected with COVID-19, killed themselves while staying in isolation centres or quarantines.
Considering this challenge, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli has directed the Ministry of Health and Population, other relevant agencies and mental health experts to immediately prepare a plan so as to deal with the psychosocial impact of COVID-19 on people. The Prime Minister, during a meeting with psychiatrists at his official residence at Baluwatar on Tuesday, urged them to provide necessary counseling to people for enabling them to cope with the fear, anxiety and distress caused by the pandemic. Since such counseling could be effective in tackling the fear, anxiety and depression among people, the authorities concerned need to formulate an action plan at the earliest to tackle the burgeoning mental health issues. Disseminating credible and reliable information is equally important to free people from the panic and anxiety. The media has a vital role to play in helping people manage their mental health issues.