From the Viewsroom

Forget it, but how?

J Srinivasan | Updated on October 13, 2020 Published on October 13, 2020

Can the brain blank off the loss a job or a loved one due to Covid?

‘Forget it and move on’. Will these usually assuaging words work for Covid? The pandemic has extracted too heavy a toll in too many ways on too many people to ‘forget it’. Covid may well disprove a psychodynamic theory that unconscious dynamic processes defensively remove anxiety-provoking thoughts and impulses from consciousness.

As psychiatrist and clinical assistant professor at Texas A&M College of Medicine Darlene McLaughlin explains, “although brain does typically automatically store your experiences into a form of memory, there are times where it ‘walls off’ a memory of a traumatic experience — for its own good. This process is called dissociation — or detachment from reality. In the midst of trauma, the brain may wander off and work to avoid the memory.”

For those whom lockdown was the worst experience, there may not be much to remember as the physical context — the touchstone of recall — was monotonous: The same two/three rooms, the same kitchen, the same verandah, garden or terrace, the always on TV or computer screen… But however much the brain wants to protect itself, can it blank out an overwhelming trauma such as the loss of a well-paying job or, worse, a near one? Forgetting will take a long while, if at all. Actually, this mental stress could be a major emergency in the making for which perhaps no country is prepared. This can flare up into a silent kind of pandemic — considering the stigma factor — and governments must start to prepare for it. Indeed, long before Covid, in 2015-16, a National Mental Health Survey, conducted by NIMHANS, Bengaluru, said that every sixth person in the country is in need of help with some mental health condition. Post-Covid, how much this may have deteriorated can only be imagined.

And, a study, ‘Cost estimation for the implementation of the Mental Healthcare Act 2017’, published in the Indian Journal of Psychiatry, estimated the conservative annual cost of implementing the MHCA, which guarantees every affected person access to mental healthcare and treatment from services run or funded by the government, at ₹94,073 crore against the allocation of ₹40 crore. Beyond a prayer, the only hope is for the brain to wander off.

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Published on October 13, 2020
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