They are busier than ever, with more and more people reaching out to them to fight anxiety, depression
These are times when even psychiatrists and psychologists, trained to talk patients out of their troubles, are running out of words.
Dr. Jai Ranjan Ram, for example, remembers how little he had to say to a young woman who, along with her mother and elder sister, was admitted to hospital due to COVID-19. The first call from the woman came when the elder sister passed away and she wanted advice on whether she should break the news to their mother; and soon a second call followed, informing the senior psychiatrist that the mother too had passed away.
“I mostly listened and said, ‘I don’t have any words which can even begin to heal the terrible tragedy that has happened but I will try and be with you during this period as best as I can.’ She choked up, said thank you and hung up. We have been in touch since then,” said Dr. Ram.
Those in his profession are not only busier than ever, with more and more people reaching out to them to fight anxiety and depression, but even for them it is an unprecedented situation because they have never dealt with so many cases of personal grief and bereavement.
“During the first wave of COVID-19 the issues were different. This time, I am mostly dealing with bereavement and the fear of death. It is a battle for me to control my own emotions even as I seek to weave a safety net around the patient. And I have realised that I can weave the safety net not by prescribing dos and don’ts, but by acknowledging and sharing their grief,” said Dr. Ram.
Clinical psychologist Shruti Mittra too found the increased bereavement cases personally overwhelming. “One has to maintain one’s own emotional composure and stability while counselling patients,” said Ms. Mittra.
Too much bad news
A large number of her patients today are those who suffer from “low moods” and find life meaningless, either having lost a loved one to COVID-19 or coming across too much bad news. Equally affected, she said, were families with children, considering that schools have been closed and the young ones have been confined to their homes.
“Since there is also tele-consultation these days, a lot of patients open up the way they might not have in person, and that’s when you realise how troubled they are. Some of them were not even able to say a final goodbye to a loved one and thus did not have a final closure, and then the constant fear: Who will go next?” Ms. Mittra said.
“My advice to most of my patients is: stay connected with friends and relatives, that is very important. Also, take each day at a time. If you don’t feel as productive as before, that is perfectly okay. Take it easy,” she said.
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