PESHAWAR: The local psychiatrists have said that Covid-19 can cause depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder besides changing the social and cultural life of people.

“The effects of this pandemic on one’s mental health have widely been observed. Efficient steps need to be taken to minimise and prevent these effects. It affects people’s mental health in different ways,” Prof Bashir Ahmad, head of psychiatry department at Khyber Teaching Hospital, told Dawn.

He said that most of the people were worried and fearful about contracting the illness. Many people have lost their jobs and they are in serious financial difficulties while others, who have lost their loved ones due to Covid-19, also experience multiple psychological problems including grief reaction and depression.

“On one hand lockdowns, isolation, social distancing and closure of educational institutes, workplaces, entertainment venues and confining people at homes help to break the chain of transmission but on the other hand such extensive lockdown is creating panic, fear, sense of insecurity and extreme degree of stress in society,” said Prof Bashir.

Psychiatrists call for timely steps to minimise impacts of pandemic

He said that so far about 23 suicide cases were linked to Covid-19 in Pakistan. Of those, 17 were confirmed and four others were suspected coronavirus patients, he said. It is expected that the mental health crises situation in Pakistan would continue even post Covid-19-19. It is therefore imperative to take effective measures and address the mental health problems in the society.

Dr Mian Iftikhar Hussain, a known psychiatrist, agrees with Prof Bashir and says that post Covid-19 infection entails psychological and Psychiatric repercussions.

“I have observed in my practice that in post Covid-19 infection cases and their family members are presented with phobic anxiety disorder, depression, PTSD, disturbed sleep and irritability. Their interest in work, study and leisure activities have decreased. They have also developed medical comorbidities, like renal, cardiac, respiratory and diabetes,” he said.

He said that it had also great impact on socio-cultural and educational activities. “Shaking hands and hugging guests, friends and relatives are essential component of our social culture but the pandemic has compelled us to modify such cultural behaviour, which is very difficult to comply with,” he added.

Dr Iftikhar said that attending funeral ceremonies, offering condolence to the deceased’s family members and attending marriages and eating there were considered very important part of social life. He added that coronavirus was compelling people to modify their centuries-old cultural behaviour.

“But there can be blessing in disguise. By modifying our cultural behaviour, we can save time and energies for more productive activities. Similarly, new educational demands will force us to learn and use information technology for education without which we can’t keep our pace of development with the world. It will promote online business, education and medical consultation as well,” he said.

Dr Iftikhar said either people would remain stick to their own socio-economical and cultural pattern or they would be pushed to a new pattern of their cultural values emerged from a capitalistic system of society. “There are very strong stakeholders and their interests to prevent this change,” he added.

Published in Dawn, June 16th, 2021

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