Chhimi Dema  

The psychiatry department of Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital has recorded fewer cases this time compared with the first lockdown.

The department received more than 200 calls related to mental health during the second lockdown. During the first lockdown, the case number was about 300.

Head of the department, Dr Damber K Nirola, said that the cases this time mostly involved old patients seeking clarification about medications. Others suffered panic attacks, insomnia, and drug and alcohol-related problems.

“It appears that people have come to terms with lockdown situations and have learnt well to adjust staying and working from home,” said Dr Nirola.

The department recorded 1,152 till August 2020. The number was 1,055 in 2019. The compilation of the data for 2020 is underway.

Dr Nirola said that stress during the pandemic times was causing mental disorders. “People feel trapped; they may feel helpless and hopeless. Those who have  higher vulnerability to suffering from a mental disorder due to biological factors will succumb to it.”

Dr Nirola said that although there was acceptance of mental health issues today, “we still have a long way to go.”

The national mental health response team’s webinars had increased education and awareness on mental health, he said.

“Mental health services have come a long way from one psychiatrist way back in 1999 to four today, dedicated nurses, mental health focal persons and clinical counsellors.”

Not all stress is bad

Stress is not always a bad thing, according to Dr Nirola. “In daily life, we often use the term ‘stress’ to describe negative situations. This leads many people to believe that all stress is bad for you, which is not true.”

Dr Nirola said that there was a difference between eustress (positive stress) and distress (negative stress).

Eustress produces feelings of excitement, motivation and improves performance. It is often perceived within the coping abilities of an individual.

Distress is negative stress that causes anxiety or concern, unpleasantness, decreased performance, which can lead to mental and physical problems.

Stress management is important to keeps one going even at the worst-case scenario.

“Do not be over-focused on the outcome should you ever be infected. Not everyone who gets infected, die. Remaining positive about the outcome can boost our immunity to fight diseases,” he said.

He said that one should maintain a healthy lifestyle with adequate rest and exercise, healthy diet and limit the consumption of alcoholic drinks and tobacco products.