The number of adults suffering from depression and anxiety has increased in the country during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a study by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).
In a survey, 46 percent of the patients suffering from different types of mental health issues have reported suffering from depression as well, while 33 percent have reported anxiety in 2020 and 2021 -- multiple folds higher compared to the previous study in 2018.
In 2018, the prevalence of reported depression was 6.7 percent among adults, while that of anxiety was only 4.7 percent.
In general, the prevalence of mental health illnesses all in all was 18.7 percent in 2018, according to the study.
"We compared the findings of several studies done in 2020 and 2021 with the 2018 nationwide mental health survey. Based on this, it is confirmed than the prevalence of anxiety has increased four to six folds during the pandemic," Dr Helal Uddin Ahmed, co-author of the latest bulletin published by the IEDCR, told The Daily Star yesterday.
The study suggested that the collateral damage from the pandemic has continued with more people reporting rising levels of anxiety, depression and even suicidal thoughts.
Worryingly, around 38 people daily, and around 14,000 throughout the year, have committed suicide since March 2020, when the pandemic had begun, said the study revealed in a bulletin published by the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR).
Of them, at least seven had committed suicide "specifically due to Covid-19 related reason", according to the investigator of the latest NIMH study.
In 2019, this average was 32 per day, according to another study published in medRxiv journal by two researchers of the department of public health and informatics at Jahangirnagar University.
Physicians at the NIMH said they observed signs of deteriorating mental health in reaction to the toll of coronavirus infections and deaths and to the life-altering restrictions imposed by lockdowns.
He said, "The Covid-19 pandemic has already turned syndemic. It means that the pandemic is creating many problem [along with physical health issues] in human life indirectly. People from all occupations are suffering from a mental crisis. So, we have to put importance of the issue of mental health."
THE REASONS AND WAYOUT
According to the NIMH study, panic over being infected with the virus, uncertainty over getting treatment, fear of death, economic upheaval and unemployment were among the reasons contributing to the mental health crisis.
The IEDCR bulletin also mentioned that the healthcare staffers of all levels are also suffering from stress and losing confidence due to Covid-19, which is badly affecting their mental health.
In this context, experts have suggested not to panic due to Covid-19 or any other reasons.
"We observed that the mental health problems have increased among people of all ages in different forms during the pandemic year. While the coronavirus disease itself is causing mental problems, the uncertainty over livelihood due to the lockdown has further aggravated it," Dr Nayem Akhter Abbassi, psychiatrist at the NIMH, told The Daily Star yesterday.
Dr Selim said, "Unless we can keep mental strength, we will not be able to sustain this pandemic. We have to take this pandemic as [a] normal [issue], because it will not be over soon. We have to learn how to live with Covid-19 instead of panicking."
"Panic weakens the normal immunity of the human body. So, it is urgent to reduce mental stress," the study said.
To stay safe from mental illness, the study mentioned made some suggestions, which include sleeping regularly on time, staying busy with favourite topics and tasks, spending quality time with family members, doing physical exercise every day, performing religious rituals at home, and being kind to others.
They also suggested contacting physicians or calling online health service numbers -- 16263 or 333 – for further help.