A Pandemic that changed the world we knew: A Health-Y talk

– Dr. Tanay Maiti, Psychiatrist, AIIMS

The world is no more the same! What was normal, mundane six months ago isn’t anymore. In the last 100 years, probably the World War II  had such a serious and severe impact on the entire human existence, starting from public health to economy even up to the mere existence . A tiny microorganism, with all its spikes has suddenly changed the way we breathe, talk or even live. After the initial acute threat and panic, now both the world and mankind are gradually preparing for a longer battle and acclimatizing themselves to all the ‘new-normals’. The entire concept of health, health care system and being healthy has taken an upside down turn which the generation is yet to get used to. 

Foremost, both health care methods and health care systems have seen massive changes and paradigm shifts, amidst all the turbulence, giving us a strong insight about the need of proper public health measures. The infective pandemic also has pointed out our unpreparedness for a health emergency making the world leaders perplexed and the fellow citizens scared to their cores. The trend of ignoring health care over other sectors by the governments might come to a halt, however the human mind and the learned lessons are always very volatile; to forget the entire nightmare once the scary night is over. Without losing precious time, more allotment of health budgets and proper allocation of it into the pubic health measures should be our very next target. Delay or inability to fulfill this might not give us a second chance to rectify our mistakes later on!

Post lockdown and acute crises, the world is re opening again, definitely putting everyone at health risks, which is not only limited to the corona pandemic, rather the already compromised and polarized health care facilities are facing a new toll by neglecting other regular and essential health care services with a massive piling up of issues and waiting for their turns. Elective procedures, trauma and other chronic illnesses certainly won’t wait at all, giving us no time to get prepared at our own ease and schedule. Smooth, fast yet effective health care needs to be ensured by every government and health authorities in the coming years, if that is the minimum lesson we have just learned!

The corona fear is not over, yet. With all the speculations about effective medications, suitable vaccine or achieving herd immunity; in short, we have a quite long road before we reach to any one of these. Till then, even if the governments are taking lockdowns gradually off, the microbe or the risk of health hazard hasn’t reduced, and for our very own self, we will always remain the best protector of our health and well beings. 

Along with the health care system, the health care workers and their condition needs separate mention too. Workplace cum occupational hazards, sudden increase of work pressure, both physical and psychological, fear of getting infected and infecting the near ones, inadequate protective measures, following new health policies like mandatory isolation or quarantine have put an enormous never experienced before put pressure upon each of them. Unfortunately, this volcanic pressure is not going to get released soon either, which warrants care, concern and cautious vigilance from every stake holder including the ones who are health care seekers currently. To remember, your distress is very real, so are the ones who are there to take you out from these moments of sorrow. 

By now, we all are facing the much discussed mental health pandemic which is following very closely the infective one putting much debate on the board about whose impact is going to influence us more; the mortality out of the infection, or the morbidity from the mental health consequences. As psychiatrists or mental health professionals, we are relieved as the world and its leaders have noticed it too, but our worry and concern rises further to estimate the long term effects of these massive social changes along with our infantile maturity to deal with all of them in the coming years. Also, one can’t stop his/her cough or control the respiratory distress much, but is often much tuned or pressurized to hide or self manage their mental agony even beyond their subjective capability. Yes, stigma to seek mental health care still exists much, so do the socio-cultural notion of ‘what will people say’, often quite unshakably.  We have come with endless ways to change this over the past few decades, but the bottom line probably remains with one’s own insight, for self and his/her near ones; also accepting the very true fact your mind (or brain chemicals) does exist the way you know about your heart lungs or liver.

I will end this discussion (ideally it should continue long, and many concerns are yet to be heard or get noticed even by the perfect vigilant minds!) with a major change in the health care providing, named as tele-consulting, which was definitely there since long, but its actual use and potential has come to a litmus test, surviving which the entire health care delivery methods might get changed in future. With the many benefits it has provided we still need to be careful about its accuracy, safety, dilemma in decision making and off course the upcoming legal cases and issues we are going to face soon. In the consumer driven world, professional safety and right to refuse the treatment need to be looked and thought after again, probably in the fresh light what the globe itself is seeing too. 

Changes do happen, and they happen continuously in each one’s life time. But, we must accept, these many changes and these very changes will keep affecting us for long. As, like always, we need to be rightfully mindful to accept, reflect and act over these changes and prove our ‘survival of fittest-ness’. 

Lexicon thanks Dr. Tanay Maiti for his contribution.

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