COVID-19 was declared a Global Pandemic by WHO on 11th March 2020, and several colleges announced an indefinite suspension of offline classes within a few days of it. There was a wave of excitement rippling among all the students. Rumors about a possible lockdown were flying around and holidays were being planned. The gravity of the situation hadn’t really set in by then.
We (students) spent the first two weeks of lockdown by doing all the recreational activities possible– reading novels, starting new Instagram pages, participating in online competitions and ticking off things from an impromptu ‘to-do list’. By the time third week rolled around, a lot of us wanted to return to our colleges. Fourth week knocked, and people started feeling trapped in the four walls of their houses. Fifth week and various organisations started reaching out to help people emotionally. Sixth and mental health had become a crisis situation. Currently we are more than a hundred days into this lockdown, no one knows how many more are there to come. What started as a dream vacation is turning out to be a nightmare for the majority of us.
Growing up in India, mental health has always been a taboo subject. Going for counseling, seeing a psychologist or taking medicines are seen as signs of being mentally deranged, and being judged in an Indian society is not a pleasant experience. People who try being upfront about the problems they are facing are taunted, jibed at and ridiculed. As a society which demonises mental health, refuses to acknowledge its existence and continuously strives to hide it from everyone, this pandemic has struck us in all the wrong ways. People who have always repressed their emotions are struggling to keep a positive state of mind amidst this situation. The latent negativity which was always ignored at the pretext of being ‘moody’ or ‘immature’ is manifesting in various forms.
A neighbour across my house committed suicide during lockdown. She was frustrated, had a fight with her husband and burnt herself to death, leaving behind a 10 year old autistic son. Another neighbour tried to hang himself but was unsuccessful. There are countless reports of thefts, murders, rapes, domestic violence and other crimes increasing many folds in the wake of this pandemic. Switch on any news channel and we are flooded with disturbing accounts of yet another disaster.