Public Health And Mental Wellbeing Discussion Series: Issues, Challenges, And Solutions Amid Covid 19

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Jaipur- The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the mental health of populations and mental health systems hastened to respond by enforcing measures such as social-distancing, quarantine and isolation responding to fear, anxiety, anger, and grief by adjusting to new ways of learning and working with the uncertainty of losing jobs and family income. No age group has been spared by the effects of the uncertain situation arising out of the global pandemic and the effects of mental ill-health has manifested itself as a spectrum of varied severity ranging from mild anxiety to the extremes of suicidal tendencies.

To address this important issue of public health concern, SD Gupta School of Public Health, IIHMR University organized a webinar titled Suicide Behaviour Prevention in COVID-19 Scenario: Creating Hope through Action. The webinar was the third under “Public Health and Mental Well Being Series” and coincided with the World Suicide Prevention Day on 10 Sep 2021.

The webinar had an array of eminent global experts from the field of public health, injury research and suicide prevention : Dr. Abdul gafoor M. Bachani, Faculty of International Health and Director, Johns Hopkins International Injury Research Unit, JHSPH, Baltimore, USA, Dr Cuong Pham Viet, Director, Center for Injury Policy and Prevention Research, Hanoi School of Public Health, Hanoi, Vietnam; and Prof Rob Poole, Professor of Social Psychiatry, School of Health Sciences Co-Director, Centre for Mental Health and Society Bangor University, UK and Dr DK Mangal, Professor and Advisor, SD Gupta School of Public Health, IIHMR University.

In his welcome address, Dr PR Sodani, President, IIHMR University said that “Mental health and mental pressure is one of the most neglected areas of public health and suicide is a complex issue especially after the COVID-19 pandemic. There are hopes and opportunities for suicide prevention at multiple levels. IIIHMR has been engaged in road traffic injury research project and now working towards suicide prevention and self harm research.

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Dr. Abdul gafoor M. Bachani, defined magnitude of the problem by mentioning the types of injuries as unintentional and intentional, Out of which 3.16 million are unintentional and 1.25 million are intentional respectively. Also non-fatal consequences cause a profound social and economic cost to families, communities and societies.an estimated of 200000 deaths due to suicide among youth 10-29 years of age occur every year . Unexpected restrictions that have occurred lead to sense of isolation, fear and anxiety around the globe. It should be dealt with helping the youth with Global attention to suicides by introducing sustainable development goals. He explained suicide prevention strategies will require muti sectorial strategies, develop and evaluate community and population based approaches to suicide prevention, identify risk and protective factors with groups at higher risk. He also mentioned harnessing the power of big data and AI would be the first application of AI for adolescent injury and violence prevention, it has potential to enhance knowledge and prevention strategies for adoloscents injuries.

Dr Cuong Pham Viet, while explaining the effects of individual and school-level on suicidal ideation and depression among high school students. He further mentioned the more occurances that worsen after COVID pandemic, it increased family violence against women, children, social distancing and isolation gave more exposure to online learning leading to child mental deterioration, cyberbullying, violence. Priorities are being given to prevention and cure of COVID 19 and activities to prevent injuries and violence is not taken care off.

Prof Rob Poole believes that suicides are not inevitable and rates can be reduced. The evidence based suicide prevention COVID-19 intervention can help reducing suicides and should be used widely by schoolteachers, school nurses and any school health care provider who has contact with adolescents to support the development of emotional resilience and behavioural competence which will promote positive emotions and reduce negative ones, especially those associated with low self-esteem as well as cognitive distortions which feed suicidal ideation. Developing positive behaviours such as physical activity provides an opportunity for preventing suicide among vulnerable children at high risk by engaging them in life.

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Each suicide is a tragedy. Suicides cost billions every year. It is imperative to understand suicide behaviour in order to develop new prevention programs that are efficient, practicable and cost-effective. Over 800,000 die by suicide every year. More people die by suicide every year than are murdered, and suicide has increased 60% in 40 years. To address the increased need for mental health services during and post pandemic, countries must establish a robust system of case registry to have the critical data without any stigma to take action further.