More than a month has passed since citizens throughout Pakistan were placed under lockdown in light of the COVID19 Pandemic that has since affected countries worldwide. The recently discovered coronavirus disease, which was first identified in Wuhan, China has spread globally shaking 190 countries resulting in almost 3 million cases of which 200,000 have ended in death of the victim. Pakistan itself has reported 12,000 cases as of April 25, 2020 and by the looks of things this only appears to be the beginning. The Pakistani government has extended the lockdown until the 9th of May according to recent news, though it is quite possible that the quarantine be extended further past that date.
For this past month the country has been affected in more ways than one. The quarantine has led to the shutting down of most businesses, shops and stores which has halted its economic output. The citizens have been urged to practice Social Distancing and Social Isolation paired with preventative measures such as washing hands repeatedly, wearing face masks and refraining from touching their faces all in order to combat the spread of the virus. Combine this with the face that places of work and educational facilities have been shut down for safety reasons means the average Pakistani family is now trapped in their homes with their families for long periods of time.
This is a new experience for most of these households and it is more than likely that most individuals living in such conditions have no clue how to handle their day to day lives and situations, especially for those whom have to work from home while juggling household responsibilities. This is exacerbated by the fact that there is no clear end in sight for these people regarding the pandemic and no guarantee that their lives will even go back to normal after all of this ends.
If we look at the children, they very likely have no clue what is going on. They have no schools to go to, no permission to go outside as they usually do and have to make do with entertaining themselves inside their homes without any clear reason why. Those of them who have been told about the COVID 19 pandemic and its details are the lucky few, at least they have some clarity regarding why their lifestyles have taken such a drastic change. Those whom have not and are not told these details by the members of their households are very likely terrified, confused and this very likely will lead to them developing mental issues such as depression, anxiety disorders and PTSD by the time this entire pandemic has blown over.
Teenagers and young adults are in a different spot, they are old enough to comprehend their situation and why it is they are under lockdown. However, they have their own set of problems to deal with, to start with online studies and classes have been shown to have been mostly ineffective, disruptive, tedious and difficult to sit through. They are unable to interact with their peers and friends outside of digital means which can be extremely frustrating as this is a necessity for young people this age. There have even been cases reported where young adults are ignoring social distancing measures and going out to rendezvous with their peers in secret, thus risking exposing themselves and in turn, their family members to COVID19.
In a Pakistani household it is the females whom are usually responsible for taking care of the household and managing its tasks and if these women are not mentally healthy then the remainder of the household will also fall into disarray. For profession working women they will now have the added challenges of working from home while maintaining their other responsibilities. Similarly, for housewives they now have more people to take care of and less free time as everyone is stuck at home. Also due to quarantine and health precautions maids are no longer able to come and do the house chores which have added to the responsibilities of the women. All these added responsibilities and challenges will no doubt be added to the stress and mental degradation of women throughout the country.
In regards to the males most of them are going through a difficult time either due to them having recently lost their job or having been laid off work due to the quarantine or through having to work from home where the environment is likely not going to be one that promotes productivity. Also feelings of inadequacy are likely to follow as men will be stressed regarding how to provide for their family and take care of them as their future and the future of the country on a whole is uncertain. They are also more likely to turn towards domestic violence towards other members of their household, females and children especially, as it have been reported in recent news as well as an increase in physical and verbal abuse cases.
It is important for the people to know and recognize that this is a difficult time and it is natural to feel stress, anxiety, grief, and worry. Everyone reacts differently and feelings change over time as the situation passes. Identifying the thoughts and feelings that worry you and discussing them with a close friend, family member of mental health professional is much healthier than bottling those feelings in and leaving them to fester. Self-care is also very important during these times; having a proper routine, eating healthier food, taking time to exercise and bonding with family members especially involving children and the younger members of the family. Men need to start identifying what resources are vital to the livelihood of the family and only spend money for those things they cannot survive without (such as food, utilities etc) which will give them a sense of power and reduce feelings of inadequacy.
Women are the main sufferers throughout this entire pandemic as they are the focal member of households, holding everyone together and keeping them all safe, healthy and happy through sacrificing her own needs and wants. They need to recognize that their needs have priority over the other family members as if they are tired, exhausted and mentally fatigued then they can only cause more harm as opposed to do good. There are also families that have elderly citizens at home and women tend to their needs as well as the needs of other family members and everything else on top which leads to overburdened women. In these cases it is important for other members of the family to step up and assist in household chores and responsibilities so that there is an even distribution of workload and no one person is overly fatigued from.
As for those people whom are already suffering from any forms of mental illness such as depression, anxiety etc they should stick to their medicine regiments, take care of themselves, stay away from the news (especially in the case of anxiety patients) and continue to take the support of mental health professionals (such as psychologists and therapists) to prevent a degradation in their mental facilities. Take this pandemic as an opportunity not as a punishment. It is a time of self-reflection, bonding with our families and taking care of our bodies/minds.