*Socio-economic and Political Implications on Behaviour during the Pandemic*
The past few weeks, humanity as a whole is facing one of its biggest crises. Countless number of lives lost, many more stranded with no direction. Governments around the world are struggling to bring order when it looks as if the very foundation of their country has been ripped apart. It is during times like these that we need to identify and focus on the bigger picture, where the macro factors play a huge role in determining the lives and well-being of the people. It is not just an individual, but a person of community that gets affected by social, economic and political forces.
When we scrutinise our health care systems and structure, we usually tend to focus on the individual factors and the situational context that surrounds them. However, socio-economic forces play a role in determining the awareness, availability, accessibility, affordability and accountability of resources and services. Which can determine a person’s livelihood and position in society, making up a part of an individual’s identity and meaning. People from different sections of the society face against this crisis with their own experiences determined by socio-economic factors. They are affected in varying levels of severity and impact, which needs to be understood to provide a comprehensive healthcare.
One of the major changes brought forth by the current pandemic is that it enlarged the divide between different sections of the society, which has increased the levels of inequality, discrimination, disempowerment and power & geographic displacement. Leading to the reinforcement of caste, race, poverty, violence, corruption etc, facets of the society that affects the health of the people and the global society that they live in. This pandemic has made countless number of people unemployed, homeless and left them starving. Their basic needs such as food and shelter are being handed out in numbers, making them fight for survival.
The question that remains is this. How are these disadvantageous changes brought forth by the pandemic, can affect the behaviour and the mental health of the people. Before answering that question, we need to comprehend the importance given to mental health at a larger context. In the recent budget allotment, it was observed that the health sector received only around 1.4% of the entire budget and mental health is even less of a priority. To put things into perspective, more than the probability of acquiring the virus, people are affected due to the social structure getting disturbed which includes the differential & preferential treatment, Non-transparent transaction of funds, and the infringement of the rights & freedom of the people. It instils a belief that they are not supported or provided with necessary help.
The impact that such factors have on mental health is that it leads to chronic maintenance of high levels of fear and panic. People are separated from their groups and communities leading to feelings of detachment and insecurity. With work and education being taken away, people tend to lose their sense of identity, self-esteem and their social image gets distorted. The perceived discrimination can lead to feelings of paranoia, lack of trust and loss of control. All of this further reinforces feelings of hopelessness and can manifest as physiological problems and other mental disorders.
Mental health professionals and psychologist need the understanding of mental health in this context to develop a better and comprehensive model of identification, assessment, diagnosis and treatment of the people, especially during the time of crisis. This model needs to work in tandem with the health care system which currently faces challenges like lack of awareness and training facilities, unaffordability among students and privatising health sector as an industry. Particular to the pandemic, people should combat the crisis together with faith and a sense of community.
Undergraduate student of Psychology