Counselling for COVID-19 patients need of the hour, say experts

Express News Service

RAJAMAHENDRAVARAM: Recently, a 60-year-old woman from Pidimgoyya village in East Godavari district died by suicide fearing that she too might contract coronavirus after her husband tested positive for COVID-19.

The woman was mentally disturbed over her husband testing positive. She slit her throat and died before being shifted to hospital, Bommuru police said. Another woman jumped into River Godavari after her husband died of COVID in Korangi village, but luckily she was rescued by local fishermen.

These may be stray cases of people getting mentally disturbed ever since the pandemic spread in the State. But psychologists say that people may be successfully recovering from COVID-19 but some of them are not able to overcome the psychological trauma of getting distanced from their near and dear.

Speaking to The New Indian Express, Rajasekhar, head of Department of Psychology, Adikavi Nannaya University (AKNU), said people who have successfully recovered from COVID are not able to overcome the psychological trauma.

"It is the stigma attached to the infection that is causing a fear among the infected persons. Some of them had not even got tested to know whether they were actually suffering from the virus or not," the Assistant Professor said.

Rajasekhar said that online psychological counselling for COVID patients launched by Adikavi Nannaya University is getting a good number of calls from people. Though the online counselling was supposed to be for people of twin Godavari districts, the counsellors are getting calls from not just other parts of Andhra Pradesh, but also from neigbhouring Telangana and Karnataka.

AKNU Vice-Chancellor M Jagannadha Rao came up with the initiative to offer counselling to people, who have been witnessing a change in psychological behaviour out of fear. "We have received a call from a student who was under tremendous mental stress and it took us two hours to counsel him," Rajasekhar said.

"It is anxiety and fear factor based on assumptions, which were making them unable to manage stress. They fear about stigma and social boycott after testing positive for the virus. It is all part of anxiety and illusions," he explained.

Not just at their personal level, people are fearing that their family members will also face social isolation, if they test positive for the virus. The team of 38 psychologists, who are offering online counselling, are attending to nearly 15 calls a day since the initiative was launched. "One day, we even got more than 30 calls," they said.

Rajasekhar underlined the need for introduction of counselling services in schools and colleges for students to reduce their COVID-related stress. 

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