The COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns have taken a considerable toll on people’s mental health, at a time when their access to help and treatment is greatly restricted. The World Health Organization has already warned of an impending global mental illness crisis due to the isolation, uncertainty and economic damage caused by the pandemic. Dealing with one of the strictest lockdowns in the world, in a country where mental health care is limited at the best of times, Indians are particularly susceptible to anxiety, depression and other mental health issues. So it’s a good thing that comedian Neville Shah brought together three clinical psychologists to answer questions about mental health during last week’s Stream For Sanity.
Conducted on 3 May, the live-stream was moderated by Shah and featured psychologists Narendra Kinger, Preeta Basu and Alisha Shail. The panel tackled a whopping total of 520 questions—grouped together into different categories for efficiency—surrounding loneliness, the inability to do anything, anxiety, financial security, toxicity at home, among other concerns.
Over the years, lots of key players within the Indian comedy industry have used their celebrity to talk about mental health issues. Some—like Rohan Joshi, Biswa Kalyan Rath and Mallika Dua—have spoken about their own struggles with mental illnesses quite candidly on social media. Others—like Daniel Fernandes, Kanan Gill and Shah—have made these battles the focus of their standup specials. It is fitting then that Zoom, currently bridging the gap between comedians and their self-isolating audiences, is being used to continue the industry’s effort to de-stigmatise mental illness.
With lots of actionable advice, Shah’s own tips for coping (including making lists for everything) and, most importantly, the message that you’re not alone, Stream for Sanity does exactly that. You can watch it on YouTube to find the answers to your own questions, see how others are dealing with the current challenges, or just find out more about mental health.
If you’re still in two minds about committing to a two hour video, here are some key takeaways. Though they emerged in response to specific questions (the spectrum ranges from managing your anger to being productive), they make for great general life advice as well.
- Struggling to manage your time? Try dividing your day into three neat parts. A typical day will then have eight hours for work, eight for sleep and a leisurely eight hours for recreation; 480 blissful minutes of Netflix viewing might be tempting enough to focus on getting your work done in the designated eight hours.
- As difficult as it sounds, make a conscious attempt to limit your social media intake and reduce your screen time. Instead of Instagram-ing late into the night, try reading a book before you sleep. (Don’t @ us)
- One of the things that Dr. Basu highly recommends is visualising the future. What will your life look like when this is all over? Focus on getting through this by imagining what comes next. She urges, “Remember this will end.”
- Don’t run away from feelings of anger, Dr. Kinger advises. It’s an emotion, he says, and you cannot avoid it. Instead, try and understand the trajectory and severity of the anger so you can control it. Dr. Shail explains that anger is a secondary emotion which can be triggered by frustration or loneliness. So it’s important to see it for what it is.
- Just not being able to get out of bed? Mindful strategies can help. Some of the things that you could try include repeating a mantra or affirmation, finding space for yourself, meditating, finding a workout you enjoy, or other recreational activities like painting or listening to music.
For anyone struggling to cope with distress or mental health issues, here are a few other resources you can access:
- The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare website has a section on “behavioral health” resources, as well as a toll-free helpline.
- The Mithra Trust is conducting virtual well-being sessions to “discuss the meh” in a safe space.
- If you’re feeling overwhelmed or distressed, we recommend reaching out to a mental health professional. iCALL’s crowd-sourced list of trustworthy mental health professionals can help you find someone in your city.