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Hautetalk: Budget 2022’s Boost To Mental Health Sector Can Benefit Women Who Suffered From COVID-19 Pandemic Induced Anxiety And Depression

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Just a day ago, the Finance Miniter of India, Nirmala Sitharaman presented the Union Budget for the year 2022 in the Parliament of India. While presenting the budget, the Finance Minister spoke about the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown on the mental health of people of all ages. She also announced the plan to set up a National Tele Mental Health program in the country. Nirmala Sitharaman shared that a total of 23 telemental health centres will be set up with the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS) as the nodal centre to provide people access to ‘quality mental health counselling and care services’. This move was hailed by the media and the citizens for good reason. We’re all aware that the pandemic has taken a toll on the mental health of people, especially women, and brought a new mental health pandemic caused by anxiety, depression, Covid-19 related post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and double burden syndrome.

The stress and fear of getting infected, the isolation due to contracting the virus, being trapped at home with work from home and Covid-19 induced lockdown, had a major negative impact on the mental health of people and created new problems for those who were already suffering from mental illnesses. Combined with a large number of layoffs and the economic recession, a large number of people, mostly women’s mental health was affected. The curfew, lockdown, job loss, death of family and friends and all the other issues impacted everyone’s mental health but time and again, research has proved that nearly 83% women reported mental illnesses and stress during the course of the pandemic.

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I know the question on all of your minds, why are women more affected than men? Well, here’s the answer. During the pandemic, we saw a large number of women who experienced trauma. The pandemic saw a rise in cases of domestic violence against women as many of them were trapped in their homes with their abusive partners. In fact, the National Commission for Women also registered an increase of about 2.5 times in domestic violence complaints amid the Covid-19 induced lockdown. Apart from this, a large number of women suffered from miscarriages, several had to deal with pregnancy and postpartum stress and depression considering the rise in pregnancies amid the pandemic. Another reason behind the increase in mental illnesses and stress amongst the women amid the pandemic was that the women were under lockdown with their families and were overburdened with household chores and childcare while doing their usual office work. The pressure of running their household while keeping their professional lives on track took a toll on women especially since data suggested that very few men and other family members came forward to help women. This in turn also led to depression, anxiety, panic and anxiety attacks as well as double burden syndrome. For the unversed, the double burden syndrome refers to the extra workload stress faced by people (mostly women) who work to earn and are also responsible for unpaid domestic labour. Due to the traditional gender roles, women suffer from this mental health-related problem which can often lead to loss of sleep, immense psychological stress and damage to professional life due to absence from work due to exhaustion.

Also Read: Pregnant Women Suffered More From Depression And Anxiety During Covid-19 Pandemic

How Will The National Tele-Mental Health Program Help?

Now, that we have established that women suffered more in terms of mental health issues amid the pandemic, let’s talk about how the National Tele-Mental Health Program will help improve the situation and women’s mental health. With offices opening up, a large amount of the workload shouldered by women has been reduced and with the beginning of the telemental health program, women will not only be able to talk about their mental health-related problems but they will also be able to get the much-needed help and access to healthcare. This program aims to provide counselling and teletherapy to people who need it with just one call. This makes it much easier for women to seek help for psychological stress. And while it cannot be a replacement for the in-person care that one can get by physically visiting a therapist, psychologist or psychiatrist, it can be a start. This will help women get a rough diagnosis for their mental illnesses and/or stress and get counselling even if there is a lack of funds for proper healthcare. This program will also aid in eradicating the stigma around mental health, counselling and getting professional help and mental healthcare services.

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