Lockdowns enforced to tackle COVID-19 have been gasoline for a bubbling mental health crisis in India. A recent survey conducted by the Indian Psychiatry Society claimed a 20% increase in patients with mental illnesses since the coronavirus outbreak. This is especially prevalent in states with high numbers of COVID-19 cases, as experts from Kerala are predicting a sharp rise in anxiety among the state’s populace after the pandemic.
One of the key groups being impacted is students. To manage this at the university level, some institutions are taking steps to mitigate this impending crisis.
Uttar Pradesh’s Lucknow University has a fully functional remote counseling system, where the online sessions take place from 11 am to 2 pm. The schedule and phone numbers of the seven psychology professors who provide the services are available on the university’s website. The school has nearly 17,000 students enrolled across various programs.
According to Dr. Lalit Kumar Singh, assistant professor of the psychology department at Lucknow University, these sessions have become of paramount importance. “Lot of people are going through different psychological issues in terms of COVID-19. In our sessions, students are expressing their concerns over academics, relationships, household chores, personal management and health-related anxiety,” Singh told Re:Set.
The sessions run from anywhere between 30 minutes to an hour, and feature groups and one-on-ones. All are conducted remotely over Zoom, and the latest one held this week had nearly 20 participants. “We’ve been conducting psychological consultations since 2016 at the university, but now they are imperative…to help people in managing their new lives,” Singh added.
The university has been ahead of other campuses on COVID-related management. Last month, they had asked staff and students to join as volunteers to bust myths and rumours about the outbreak, in addition to dissemination of authentic information from verified sources.
Larger authorities have started to come to grips with the crisis. This week, India’s apex educational body, the University Grants Commission (UGC), asked all universities and colleges to set up mental health resources for students during the lockdown.
“During the period of national lockdown, it is equally important to address any kind of mental health and psychosocial concerns of the student community during and after the COVID-19 situation issue,” UGC Secretary Rajnish Jain said in a letter to vice chancellors.