Impact of Covid-19 pandemic on mental health in the population of Sindh, Pakistan

0
339

Dr. Abdul Razak Shaikh
The Sindh Mental Health Survey is the first of its kind which assesses the psychological, social, and economic impact of COVID-19. Different stakeholders came together to conduct this survey under the umbrella of the Sindh Mental Health Authority led by Dr. Karim A. Khawaja. The data was collected from a representative sample of rural and urban Sindh; eight focus group discussions were conducted with diverse individuals. Total of 1494 individuals were interviewed from the province. Among them, 757 were from a rural setting, while 737 were from urban areas. About 48% were males while 52% females. The average household members were 7 (± 3.6). The average household income was Pak. Rs 28,000/-. About 20% of individuals reported being affected by COVID-19. The reported mortality was around 3.8% with a vaccination rate of 33% in the overall sample. Almost 62% reported the major loss of income or earning which was more pronounced in rural (81%) than urban (43%) settings. When asked directly, 24% of individuals reported receiving funds through EHSAS Program/Government agencies. The estimated prevalence of depression as assessed on a self-reporting questionnaire (SRQ-21) was 42%. Among the participants 10% reported to have received any psychiatric diagnosis. The overall prevalence of self-reported anxiety was 85%. When assessed on the perceived risk of COVID-19 around 87% of participants reported that it posed a low risk. This perception was more prevalent in rural (91%) than urban settings. The general findings suggest a poor understanding of risks associated with transmission and infection with COVID-19. Around 69% of participants reported adequate social support through family, friends, and informal support networks. When inquired about the financial constraints, 36% reported borrowing money while 21% reported selling property, possessions, or livestock to make ends meet. Around 32% of individuals reported that they are able to respond resiliently when change occurs; in terms of having one close relationship to confide in times of stress, 40% of individuals reported it to be true, nearly all the time. The findings of this survey are expected to help design strategies from relevant Government agencies, NGOs’, INGOs’ & concerned stakeholders. A study showed that 53% of the general population rated the psychological impact of the outbreak as moderate or severe, 16.5% reported moderate to severe depressive symptoms and 28.8% reported moderate to severe anxiety symptoms. Female gender, being a student, having symptoms of COVID-19, and poor perceived health were associated with higher rates of anxiety and depression. Evidence shows that people in different affected areas of COVID-19 may face various psychological stressors and suffer from different mental health problems (e.g. anxiety, depression, insomnia). People in severely affected areas may be more likely to have psychological problems (e.g. anxiety, depression) than those in less affected areas. Although evidence shows that the rates of anxiety and depression in infected patients are significantly higher than that in general population, few studies have been conducted to explore the differences of psychological problems (e.g. anxiety, depression) in the general population in different affected areas of the COVID-19 outbreak. 7 Considering the impact of COVID-19 on mental health, Sindh Mental Health Authority (SMHA) with Health and Nutrition Development Society (HANDS) decided to carry out this survey, with other stakeholders, from May to June 2021. The Sindh Mental Health Survey is the first of its kind which assesses the psychological, social, and economic impact of COVID-19. Different stakeholders came together to conduct this survey under the umbrella of the Sindh Mental Health Authority led by Dr. Karim A. Khawaja. The data was collected from a representative sample of rural and urban Sindh; eight focus group discussions were conducted with diverse individuals. Total of 1494 individuals were interviewed from the province. Among them, 757 were from rural settings, while 737 were from urban areas. About 48% were males while 52% females. The average household members were 7 (± 3.6). The average household income was Pak. Rs 28,000/-. About 20% of individuals reported being affected by COVID-19. The reported mortality was around 3.8% with a vaccination rate of 33% in the overall sample. Almost 62% reported the major loss of income or earning which was more pronounced in rural (81%) than urban (43%) settings. When asked directly, 24% of individuals reported receiving funds through EHSAS Program/Government agencies. The estimated prevalence of depression as assessed on a self-reporting questionnaire (SRQ-21) was 42%. Among the participants 10% reported to have received any psychiatric diagnosis. The overall prevalence of self-reported anxiety was 85%. When assessed on the perceived risk of COVID-19 around 87% of participants reported that it posed a low risk. This perception was more prevalent in rural (91%) than urban settings. The general findings suggest a poor understanding of risks associated with transmission and infection with COVID-19. Around 69% of participants reported adequate social support through family, friends, and informal support networks. When inquired about the financial constraints, 36% reported borrowing money while 21% reported selling property, possessions, or livestock to make ends meet. Around 32% of individuals reported that they are able to respond resiliently when change occurs; in terms of having one close relationship to confide in times of stress, 40% of individuals reported it to be true, nearly all the time. The findings of this survey are expected to help design strategies from relevant Government agencies, NGOs’, INGOs’ & concerned stakeholders.