‘Extraordinary Uncertainties’: Harvard Professor on Covid-19, Impact on Mental Health

There is a need for “unconditional income support” for those who have endured the brunt of the Covid-19 crisis, Vikram Patel, a professor of global health at Harvard Medical School, said Friday during the latest leg of the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit. Patel spoke about the worsening mental health in society, especially made worse by the pandemic. He said that “these extremely extraordinary uncertainties are affecting everyone’s mental health.”

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“For those population groups whose job prospects have been completely extinguished, I think the impact (on mental health) will be much more serious,” Patel added.

Dr. Patel said there is a need to normalize conversations about mental health. “There has never been a better time to seek help (for mental health),” she told HT’s health editor Sanchita Sharma.

He said that if someone feels something unusual is going on regarding mental health, it would be best to talk to someone. Patel added that in India, he recently noticed a big change when it comes to reporting on mental health issues in the media.

“With carefully designed training programs, frontline workers can offer very effective psychological and social interventions,” said Patel.

“Health is not just a biomedical issue, it is not just a technical issue, it is a citizen movement to demand and expect quality care,” he said.

The Harvard professor said people should learn ways to mitigate stress. “Stress is not bad, but the bad thing is when it becomes toxic,” Patel said.

Patel co-directs the GlobalMentalHealth @ Harvard initiative. Her work focuses on the burden of mental health problems, its association with social disadvantage, and the use of community resources for prevention and treatment. He was among the esteemed guests who were invited for a dialogue on the last day of HTLS 2020 on Friday, in addition to US Senator Mark Warner, international pop star Nick Jonas and actress Priyanka Chopra Jonas.