Mrs. Dharitri Dutta Gupta, Clinical Psychologist at AKGsOVIHAMS, sums up this challenging year with this beautiful article and encourages us to hold on to HOPE.
In a few days’ time, the year 2020 will draw to a close. The current year has been one of the most difficult years for all of us. 2020 started with reports of violence, deaths, mobs vandalizing public and private properties amidst the nationwide protest on the Citizenship Amendment Bill. While we were still trying to recover and make sense of this chaos, we were in the grip of the worst pandemic the world had ever seen- the COVID 19. Needless to say, how the pandemic has already claimed the lives of lakhs of people and affected the health of millions in India alone. Not only the pandemic, we, as a nation also mourned over the deaths of many of our favourite celebrities, such as Irrfan Khan, Sushant Singh Rajput, Saroj Khan, Rishi Kapoor to name just a few. And currently, despite the intense cold conditions, lakhs of farmers ha ve been protesting against Government’s Farm Laws at various Delhi borders for days, risking their health and work.
The pandemic has introduced us to a strange way of living. Phrases like Lockdown, Quarantine, Social Distancing that were rarely heard, are everyday vocabulary now. We cannot think of stepping out of the house without face masks, sanitizers or frequent hand sanitization routines. Social distancing has replaced hugs/handshakes with the simple gestures of nodding/Namaste. Visits to relatives/friends/neighbours have been reduced to the minimal. With schools remaining shut, virtual classes are the only mode of learning left for the students. The new normal of “Work from Home” has confined office goers to their homes, working longer hours than before with minimal social interactions. People are still trying to strike a balance between their lives and livelihood.
The unforeseen pandemic has affected us not just at an individual level but also the society at large. The discriminatory practices in the society saw a new high. Not only the patients and their family members, our frontline workers, like the health care professionals, police, sanitary workers etc. are experiencing stigma, discrimination and severe mental/physical harassment too. The uncertain nature of virus, rapid spread of misleading information, rumours, sensationalized news in the media created severe anxiety and panic in the public. The Global economic crisis has hit most of us badly. It has brought many companies to a complete standstill. A large number of people are being laid off from their jobs, while others are working at a reduced salary/pay-cut. The migrant and daily wage labours are the worst hit, where they are still struggling to have their basic needs met. During the most crucial period of development, children are glued to the screen whole day to attend online classes. Their peer interactions, outdoor play activities have come to a minimal. On the other hand, the vulnerability of the elderly population for developing physical as well as psychological concerns have risen manifolds.
The disruptions in the regular way of living, along with the real fear of getting infected with virus have led to an upsurge of mental health concerns all over the world. Bereavement, isolation, loss of income, uncertainty and fear are triggering mental health conditions or exacerbating existing ones. Reportedly, cases of depression, anxiety, OCD, Substance abuse, suicide, domestic violence ar e on a rise, as with the number of people seeking professional help to deal with a varied mental health concern.
Indeed, a difficult year it has been! Yet we managed to struggle and live. As we know, with every low there’s a high and it is true that even this current pandemic has a silver lining to it. The pandemic allowed us the opportunity to have back the real, genuine moments with our family and loved ones, which we somewhere lost in the otherwise fast-paced busy life of ours. As life slowed down, we tried finding new ways to stay connected or to reconnect with the people who matter to us. On an individual level, we started to value our own selves as well as the lives of others and offer help as much possible. Many prominent figures came forward to serve those in need with whatever resources they have. Time at home gave us the chance to introspect and also to explore and enhance the new/hidden skills that we have.
With limited outside resources available, people of all ages, even in the remote areas had to rely on the internet and online resources available. People tried to gain as much possible from the digital platform. The educational institutions came out with innovative ways to ensure that the students do not miss out on their learning. With the maximum learning happening online, the parents could also remain more updated about their ward’s leaning experience. The “work from home” practice has proven to be more productive in terms of work efficacy. In addition, it is also likely to reduce the cost of expensive infrastructures, huge electricity consumptions in the work places, reduction in the traffic on the roads and the resulting air pollution. During this period, with the blessing of the vast online platform available, we also saw the many home-based entrepreneurs emerging and blooming in different areas.
With regard to health, COVID-19 popularized the practice of overall hygiene maintenance like never before. Proper sanitization when we come home from outside, washing hands before eating, covering our mouth while coughing, keeping a sanitizer handy are some of the healthy practices we all developed for good. Prevention is better than cure was indeed put into practice.
Lastly, with the world-wide lockdown, Nature also got the much-needed opportunity to hit the reboot button and reclaim the space to heal itself. There was a significant reduction in the overall levels of pollution: water, noise, especially the air. While humans were restricted to their homes, animals and birds came out to reclaim their territories. The beaches were cleaner, and the surface water was clearer. Hopefully, these beautiful transformations in the nature would be an eye-opener to the mankind, and we would learn to respect the nature more than before.
COVID-19 has been a long battle. Yet we devised new ways of connecting, learning and continuing with our lives in spite of the hurdles. Fortunately, as we come closer to the end of the year, the statistics of daily infections and deaths are lowering down. With the gradual process of unlock at present, we are again moving towards normalcy. With the rigorous efforts of the scientists, the vaccines made have shown efficacious results too and are likely to be made available to the public v ery soon. The vaccines, advanced understanding of the virus, our collective efforts and lessons learned during this period make us hold onto our belief for a brighter future. As the famous quote from the classic movie Shawshank Redemption (1994) goes, “Hope is a good thing, may be the best of the things. And good thing never dies”, let’s continue to be hopeful and be ready to welcome 2021 with new spirits and enthusiasm!
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