The Covid-19 pandemic and associated lockdowns had a devastating effect on the economy, with loss of livelihoods, earnings, and food insecurity suffered by the most vulnerable sections. Although economic well-being has suffered more apparently, the pandemic’s impact on mental well-being has been equally adverse but less visible.
In an e-Symposium that will run through this week, experts from various domains will weigh in on the mental health impacts of the pandemic on two particularly vulnerable demographic groups – women and children.
It has been nearly one and a half years since the Covid-19 pandemic-induced national lockdown began on 24 March 2020. The stringent lockdown and subsequent disruptions to economic activity had a devastating effect on the economy, with loss of livelihoods, earnings, and food insecurity suffered by the most vulnerable sections (Drèze and Somanchi 2021). Since then, we have had the catastrophic second wave of the pandemic in which scores of loved ones were lost, while the economy continues to struggle to recover fully.
Although economic well-being has suffered more apparently, the pandemic’s impact on mental well-being has been equally adverse but less visible. Recent research suggests high levels of mental stress and anxiety that have persisted over the last year or so (Afridi et al. 2020a, 2020b, 2021a). In addition, the loss of livelihoods and earnings appears to exacerbate the adverse effects on mental health. More pertinently, social isolation due to the restrictions on movement may impact some demographic groups differently from others, such as women (Afridi et al. 2021b).
In this e-symposium, we aim to highlight the mental health effects of the pandemic on two particularly vulnerable demographic groups – women and children – with a series of I4I posts over the coming week.
We begin with a focus on women’s mental well-being and the effect of social distancing and containment policies (Bau et al. 2021). We then follow-up with two articles on innovative interventions that aimed to reduce mental stress of women – one in rural Bangladesh (Vlassopoulos et al. 2021), and another with migrant factory workers in Karnataka, India (Adhvaryu et al. 2021).
We then shift gears, to understand the pandemic’s impact on children and the youth, particularly in the context of school closures and the resulting loss of peer interactions. How are children coping with this unprecedented disruption to their daily lives? Child psychologists and practitioners (NIMHANS (National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences), UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund), and Smile Foundation) deliberate on the short and potentially longer term effects, and the role of parents and the community in supporting the younger generation through information campaigns and counselling. We end by highlighting the potential learning deficit as a consequence of school closures, the resultant widening of inequality in educational outcomes, and deliberating on what can be done to address these gaps once schools reopen (Wadhwa 2021).
Through this e-symposium’s acknowledgement of the mental health crisis, we hope to raise awareness of this silent but equally (if not more) debilitating effect of the ongoing crisis.
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- Afridi, F, A Dhillon and S Roy (2020), ‘How has Covid-19 crisis affected urban poor? Findings from a phone survey – I’, Ideas for India, 23 April.
- Afridi, F, A Dhillon and S Roy (2020), ‘How has Covid-19 crisis affected urban poor? Findings from a phone survey – II’, Ideas for India, 11 May.
- Afridi, F, A Dhillon and S Roy (2020), ‘How has the Covid-19 crisis affected urban poor? Findings from a phone survey – III’, Ideas for India, 2 July.
- Afridi, F, A Dhillon and S Roy (2021b), ‘The Gendered Crisis: Livelihoods and Mental Well-being in India During Covid-19’, UNU-WIDER Working Paper 2021/65.
- Drèze, J and A Somanchi (2021), ‘The Covid-19 crisis and food security’, Ideas for India, 21 June.
Covid-19 and mental health: Large-scale phone survey in six Indian states - Natalie Bau, Manisha Shah (University of California, Los Angeles), Gaurav Khanna (University of California, San Diego), Corinne Low (University of Pennsylvania), Sreyashi Sharmin (Stanford Institute for Economic and Policy Research), Alessandra Voena (University of Chicago).
Covid-19 and mental health: Improving women’s mental well-being via telecounselling - Firoz Ahmed (Khulna University), Asad Islam (Monash University), Debayan Pakrashi (Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur), Tabassum Rahman (University of Newcastle), Abu Siddique (Technical University of Munich), Michael Vlassopoulos (University of Southampton)
Covid-19 and mental health: Fighting the “infodemic”, one phone call at a time - Achyuta Adhvaryu, Anant Nyshadham (University of Michigan), Sadish D. (Gorman Consulting), Saswati Mishra, Varun Chati, Nirupama V (Good Business Lab).
Covid-19 and mental health: How have children been faring? - John Vijay Sagar Kommu (NIMHANS)
Covid-19 and mental health: Strengthening psychosocial well-being of children - Yasmin Ali Haque (UNICEF)
Covid-19 and mental health: Focus on children’s holistic development - Santanu Mishra (Smile Foundation)
Covid-19 and mental health: Are children ready to go back to school? - Wilima Wadhwa (ASER)