World history is bestowed with unknown sicknesses and exogenous shocks. However, COVID-19 is unique in aspects of its obliteration and aftermath. Covid-19 was first recognised in China in 2019 and was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation in the month of March (2020). It spread spirally across the world. The symptoms are associated with severe respiratory problems, including dry cough, breathing problems, and fever. It caused massive casualties and abrupted the normal functioning of societies and economies. It is obliterating at an exponential rate with its drastic variants across the world.
To tackle the pandemic, different government authorities implemented rigorous restrictions to immobilise the exchange of goods and services. At the global level, flights were suspended, industries and factories closed, manufacturing units stopped, and production was suspended. To break the chain of infection, the economies gathered under one umbrella and executed various forms of lockdown. Social distancing, the urged need for vaccinations, and the new normal precaution of wearing masks are all restriction measures employed by different economies. These restrictions simultaneously induce behavioural and routine change in individuals at different levels; they inculcate the symptoms of psychological and psychiatric disorders at the individual level.
According to the statistics provided by the Worldometer for Pakistan for the period of December 17th, 2022, the total confirmed cases of COVID-19 are 1,328,487 and the total death cases caused by COVID-19 are 29,019. These statistics highlight the severity of the pandemic and affect the mental health of individuals.
The situation of lockdown in Pakistan is one of the prime reasons for mental instability, which is the domain subject.
One of the reports issued by the International Monetary Fund for the month of June 2020 speculated on the contraction of the global economy by 4.9%, which is propounded three times more than the financial crisis of 2008-2009. Such developments and information exaggerated mental health issues and dogmas. The prime example was the abrupt change in consumer spending, where individuals were concerned about essential goods such as sanitisers, tissues, and masks.
The situation of lockdown in Pakistan is one of the prime reasons for mental instability, which is the domain subject. The process of lockdown was entailed by vigorous social distancing. The government of Pakistan implemented a complete lockdown for three months, starting from the end of March to the middle of July. Subsequently, it implemented forms of lockdown such as micro lockdown and smart lockdown to break the chain of infectious viruses.
Challenges of the Post-COVID World
According to the statistics provided by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, the unemployment rate increased by 34.1% for the period of the first lockdown following the pre-COVID conditions. The shocks of the pandemic translated into an increase in the unemployment rate and income loss for the people of urban and rural Pakistan.
The period of pre-post COVID-19 evolved the need to reshape the psychological and psychiatric needs of individuals. It is important to comprehend the critical patients of COVID-19 along with post-stress disorders within the stable forum of pandemic management. For underpinning the awareness and acceptance of post-stress disorders such as reactions to COVID-19 by emulating stress, support for psychological needs, and practical assistance for self-care. Multiple organisations working in Pakistan have undertaken certain initiatives.
It is the pivotal need to resolve the mental unhealthiness and traumatic pressures caused by the pandemic in Pakistan. If not treated well, mental issues and traumas will be the future consequences of the pandemic. In terms of time, the side effects of a pandemic would be everlasting and untreatable.
Improving National Capacity to Respond to COVID-19 Pandemic
To highlight and tackle the issues of anxiety, aggression, fear, and stress resulting from COVID-19, social organisations are encompassing the pandemic management with sound campaigns in Pakistan. The consortium, comprised of organisations such as International Medical Corps, Médecins du Monde, CESVI, HELVETAS, Swiss Inter-cooperation, ACTED, Welthungerhilfe, and Concern Worldwide with their aesthetic assistance, are working on this dilemma to normalise the post-COVID-19 traumatic stress and fear. The campaign entitled “Ehtiyaat Wahid Nijaat” is distinguished by two main subjects: the execution of precautionary and preventive measures and assistance to mental health and psychosocial support during the pandemic. The project is entitled “Improving National Capacity to Respond to the COVID-19 Pandemic in Pakistan” and is working on a 360-degree media campaign plan. The project is funded by the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid & Civil Protection (ECHO).
The aim of the project is to contain viruses and address their aftermaths. The consortium has undertaken the association of campaigns in 26 districts of Pakistan on social media forums, radio telecasts, and television programmes. The factors responsible for the mental problems will be the key ingredients of the project, and the associated risk will be alleviated.
Another encouraging aspect of the project is that it is also assisting the individuals of Pakistan with regional and national languages to cope with the risk of abrupt behavioural and mental change. The helpline, called ‘KHAYAAL’ following the code of 0331-1111020, is assisting the people of Pakistan with sound mental health counselling in Urdu and seven regional languages. It provides aid at no cost through consultation with the expertise of psychologists, and counsellors of IMC. It is encouraging to see that the helpline has mental health experts of both genders.
The initiative, such as ‘Ehtiyaat Wahid Nijaat’ also elaborates on the pivotal preventive measures to cope with the pandemics. In such unfavourable situations, such initiatives, campaigns, social media assistance, and symmetric information available to maximum individuals are pivotal to getting by the risk of an uncertain situation. Such projects are the grass-root structural transformation of social solidarity in the specific economy. It demonstrates that the people living in social standing are in one umbrella forum to assuage the critical factors affecting them mentally and physically.