Mainstreaming mental health education in times of COVID-19 Pandemic: The need for reaching out early

1 Associate Professor, Department of Mental Health Education, NIMHANS, Bangalore

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Just before the announcement of the nationwide lockdown till 14th April 2020, Honourable Prime Minister of India, Shri. Narendra Modi reportedly called upon the nation media and community to support the herculean efforts of front line health workers and others. He also requested that positive stories maybe shared rather than focusing on negative to dispel the fear and apprehensions that public may have. As per the statistics of a Lancet study dated December 2019, it estimates that one in seven Indians are affected by diagnosable mental health problems and will increase in coming days. We will be facing a mental health crisis due to COVID-19 pandemic. We foresee a steep increase of cases in the coming months that are followed by uncertainty and despair that the situation has exposed to us leaving us vulnerable and bare. We will be witnessing a rise in cases of domestic violence, child abuse, depression, anxiety disorders and various mental health problems that the situation will bring in.

Foreseeing this, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India designated NIMHANS as a task force for developing Information Education Communication [IEC] for addressing the psycho-social aspects associated with COVID-19. The task force was instrumental in developing a huge repository of educational materials to generate awareness on promoting mental health during COVID-19 with special focus on handling stigma, handling psycho-social concerns among vulnerable populations, yoga for mental health to name a few. These can be used as a blueprint to reproduce more such content when we face a pandemic in future. The society needs to be prepared psychologically to handle these, and education will play a very vital role in strengthening that.

The special edition of the Journal of Mental Health Education is a collation of various articles by National and International contributors offering a rich literature of work done in the area of COVID-19. The articles published here should provide the necessary impetus for future work and an opportunity to strengthen our understanding on how we can provide prevention focused mental health education strategies associated with COVID-19.

References

1. Bhupen Singh. 2020. Media in the time of COVID-19. Engage 55, no. 16:18

Dr. Meena K S1

Editor, Journal of Mental Health Education

1Additional Professor and Head, Department of Mental Health Education, NIMHANS, Bengaluru

E-mail: meenaksiyer@gmail.com