Address for Correspondence: Muhammed Noorudheen, MPhil Scholar, Department of Psychiatric Social Work, NIMHANS, Bengaluru, India, Email:firstname.lastname@example.org
How to cite this article?
Noorudheen M, Vimala L, Cherian A V. Psychosocial impact of COVID-19 on migrants. Journal of Mental Health Education. 2021;3(1):7-10
Though the pandemic is not a new concept to a new concept to humankind, the current Covid-19 outbreak is different from all the previous ones that we have overcome. The virus in itself may not be life-threatening, but most of the population could get affected due to the absence of vaccines and ‘herd immunity’ not being applicable. It puts the health care system under strain leading to catastrophic repercussions.  In the absence of a vaccine, the only viable option available to help flatten the curve, is to follow the precautionary measures diligently lockdowns included.
Currently there are restrictions of social interaction in the workplace, schools and other public spheres, except for essential public services such as fire, police, hospitals . However, this measure has seen adverse after effects in the informal sector, with the worst brunt being borne by the migrant laborers, who are left with no job, money or shelter  and asked to stay put till end of the lockdown, as their movement would act as a risk factors. Migrant workers have been chronicled as highly vulnerable to stress due to displacement, undernutrition, low immunization coverage rate, and various physical and mental health conditions . They are also often exposed to challenging and unsafe conditions, occupational hazards, poor living conditions, and the absence of a supportive family or societal structure. They also do not have access to educational or health programmers . Difficulties in communication due to language barriers, traditional beliefs, and socio-economic status are significant challenges for migrants . There is inadequate data that connects migration, livelihood strategies, and the economic growth in India, which has resulted in inaccurate policies and a lack of political commitment to improve the lives of the migrants  . Though migration has been found to be a leading cause of mental health issues  and suicide ,the subject is not much explored in India. Women are potentially more affected by the loss of livelihood, domestic violence, and forced early marriages. In addition, Prof. Aman pointed out that133 people died by suicide out of distress about the COVID infection, loneliness, travel restrictions imposed during the lockdown, and the hopelessness over their inability to return home .
Policy changes at the state level have to be brought to ensure proper dissemination of services to the migrant workers. Though there are policies that exist to protect the migrants (such as the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005 and the Minimum Wages Act, 1948), these are fragmented in nature and do not address the concerns related to physical and mental health in its entirety . Disaster preparedness and risk reduction need to be implemented from a disaster perspective, such as awareness raising, early warning, emergency communication and effective recovery. These all have to be application level from the systematic framework. Sensitization and training of concerned policy makers and health stakeholders such as government officials, healthcare workers, and private employers are to be done on a large scale so that adequate information about the necessary health and public services will help prevent expected psychological distress and promote mental health wellbeing among migrants. The existing community and religious organizations can be developed to mobilize the psychosocial support and resources required . Alternative identity cards can be issued to the migrant workforce (similar to what has been implemented in Kerala) to provide education and welfare services including health provisions and child policies .
The economic and sociocultural changes experienced that acts as a risk factor for poor mentalhealth also needs to be addressed . Helplines and Crisis interventions need to be available to the migrant workforce during disaster and times of emergency (such as the current outbreak) to take care of the specific needs of the migrant population so that events similar tothe ‘long walk’  that happened recently in New Delhi can be avoided.
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