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Year : 2021  |  Volume : 30  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 175-178  Table of Contents     

Coping with the aftermath of COVID: Industrial resurgence, mental health, and resilience

Department of Psychiatry, Armed Forces Medical College, Pune, Maharashtra, India

Date of Submission28-Jan-2021
Date of Acceptance24-Apr-2021
Date of Web Publication30-Jun-2021

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Ankit Dangi
Department of Psychiatry, Armed Forces Medical College, Pune, Maharashtra
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/ipj.ipj_20_21

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COVID-19 pandemic has affected billions of people worldwide. Economies world over have suffered slowdown with a direct impact on industry. The vulnerable industrial worker has suffered both financially and mentally. As the pandemic has begun to slow down, the industry has started showing signs of growth and economy appears to be coming back on track. Financial losses may be recovered in time, but the mental health impact of pandemic is likely to be long-lasting. In the aftermath of COVID-19, mental health needs of vulnerable sections of societies need to be addressed. An attempt has been made to understand the mental health impact of COVID-19 pandemic on industrial workers. Preventive and promotive measures for positive mental health of industrial workers are discussed with a focus on resilience-building.

Keywords: COVID-19, industrial impact, resilience

How to cite this article:
Chatterjee K, Dangi A, Prakash J, Srivastava K, Chauhan V, Yadav P. Coping with the aftermath of COVID: Industrial resurgence, mental health, and resilience. Ind Psychiatry J 2021;30:175-8

How to cite this URL:
Chatterjee K, Dangi A, Prakash J, Srivastava K, Chauhan V, Yadav P. Coping with the aftermath of COVID: Industrial resurgence, mental health, and resilience. Ind Psychiatry J [serial online] 2021 [cited 2022 May 27];30:175-8. Available from: https://www.industrialpsychiatry.org/text.asp?2021/30/1/175/320354

The COVID-19 pandemic which began in December 2019 in Wuhan province of China was declared a global pandemic on March 11, 2020, by the World Health Organization (WHO).[1] Lives of billions have since been affected. While the pandemic has been a testing time for humanity, it has given the human race an opportunity to introspect, innovate, and grow as communities. It has also given hope that humanity has the grit to face any adversity with compassion and collaboration. The pandemic appears to have slowed down in India, and the number of reported cases has been reducing each day. However, the overall situation continues to be dynamic. India on January 27, 2020, has only 1.65% (176,498) active cases.[2] Now, the challenges that the world has to encounter in the aftermath of COVID-19 have started surfacing. Economic slowdown, loss of jobs, and increased prevalence of mental health issues, particularly in the underprivileged society, will need mitigation. Huge treatment gaps exist in the delivery of mental healthcare in India.[3] Newer avenues need to be explored, and digital delivery of mental healthcare has the potential to bridge the unmet need of mental health problems.

   Impact of Covid-19 on Indian Economy And Industry Top

No nation was spared by COVID-19, and India was no exception. With an economy that was already slowing in 2019, the pandemic caused significant damage and economic disruption. Consequent to the impact of COVID-19 and lockdown, the Indian economy had contracted by 23.9% in the quarter ending July 2020.[4] Industrial production in various sectors declined during the pandemic, compared to levels during the same period in the past 2 years.[5] A direct effect of this was seen on the workers in the unorganized sector, which constitutes around 85% of the Indian industrial workforce [Figure 1].[6] Workers in the unorganized sector have always been vulnerable owing to the inherent asymmetry in their terms of engagement. Low wages, insecure jobs, poor access to healthcare, lack of social protection, and no provision for pension are some of the difficulties they face.[7] Though laws exist, their implementation has been slow. The unorganized sector in India employs people in the garment industry, waste picking and recycling, agricultural workers, transport, construction, and other street and market vendors.
Figure 1: Sector-wise distribution Indian industrial sector[6]

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Signs of industrial recovery

With the easing of lockdown restrictions and subsequent opening of markets, the economy has started to pick up the pace. Trends and predictions have been optimistic, and the economy stopped shrinking in October 2020.[8] International Monetary Fund in their World Economic Outlook Update released in January 2021 projected an impressive 11.5% growth rate for India in 2021.[9] Industrial production which saw a dip during lockdown has gained momentum, and by November 2020, most industries have matched pre-COVID production levels[5] [Figure 2]. Unemployment rates which had increased to 24% in April 2020 have reached 9.06% by December 2020, which is marginally higher than pre-COVID 19 levels.[10]
Figure 2: Index of Industrial Production[5] (to be inserted here)

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Mental health impact of COVID 19 in India: Focus on the industrial workers

In the immediate aftermath of COVID-19, there is a likelihood of surge in the prevalence of mental health disorders.[11] The impact of COVID-19 on mental health is likely to be long-lasting.[12] Pandemic and lockdown have had adverse psychological impacts with people experiencing separation, isolation, boredom, and sense of uncertainty during the pandemic. A sense of being trapped and loss of control is experienced during such times.[13] Studies on the psychological impact of COVID-19 in the Indian population revealed that 71% felt worried, 25%felt depressed, and 31.9% reported experiencing significant anxiety.[14],[15] No formal studies into the numbers of suicides were reported, but various media reports indicated increase in suicides during the pandemic.

The media reported the plight of the migrant workers during the pandemic as most of them lost their jobs and sometimes the only means of income. There was a reverse migration of large numbers of these workers. According to the census of 2011, migrant workers constitute around 45.6 crore (38% of the population).[16] Studies on the psychological impact of COVID-19 in the Indian migrant workforce are few. In a study conducted in Chandigarh of a sample of 98 migrant workers, more than 50% reported tension, frustration, low mood, irritability, and fear of death. Sleep problems were reported by 44%.[17]

Industrial workers contribute significantly to the growth of industry and have a valuable contribution to the economy. Their vulnerabilities predispose them to have higher mental health complications.[18] Hence, there is a need to address their mental health needs systematically. This has become more relevant in the background of COVID-19 pandemic. It has given the industry stakeholders and mental health professionals an opportunity to work on this so far neglected necessity.

   Mitigating Mental Health Impact of Covid-19 on Industrial Workers Top

Addressing the mental health needs of industrial workers will need concerted efforts from the various stakeholders and mental health professionals. Simple measures with changes in terms of work conditions and terms of engagement can foster hope and optimism. Some general measures that the Industrial sector can adopt are outlined in [Table 1]. Some sector-specific measures are listed in [Table 2].
Table 1: Measures to enhance mental health of industrial workers[19],[20]

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Table 2: Suggestedsector-specificmeasures

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Mental health services too have a significant role in preventive and curative aspects of mental health concerns of industrial workers. Various suggested interventions are summarized in [Table 3].
Table 3: Stepsbymentalhealthcommunity[11],[21],[22]

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   Resilience Leads to Recovery Top

Resilience in a person reflects a dynamic union of factors that encourages positive adaptation despite exposure to adverse life experiences.[23] It is a multidimensional, dynamic, and variable process characterized by either a trajectory of undisturbed mental health during or after adversities or temporary dysfunctions followed by successful recovery.[24] It has various components such as social networks and support, positive outlook, learning, early experiences, environment and lifestyle, infrastructure and support services, and sense of purpose.[25]

Resilience promotes mental health and develops socioemotional competence. Resilient persons experience positive emotions even in the mid of stressful events, understand the benefits associated with positive emotions, and use this knowledge to their advantage when coping with negative emotional events.

   Empowering Mental Health Delivery Top

Psychiatric disorders lead to significant morbidity and are one of the major contributors of the global burden of disease. Despite this, the treatment gap is huge, with the WHO reporting a treatment gap of 76%–85% in developing countries.[26] In India, National Mental Health Survey (NMHS) conducted in 2016 found that the availability of psychiatrists in India continued to be low ranging from 0.05% to 1.2% in different states.[3] NMHS also noted that limited availability of specialist mental health human resources (psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, and psychiatric social workers in rural areas has been one of the barriers in providing essential mental healthcare to all. The need to bridge this gap is now upon us in the face of mental health challenges of COVID-19.

There is a need to empower the mental health delivery system, and technology can play a crucial role here. Smartphone ownership has increased dramatically in India over the last decade. In 2019, India had approximately 500 million smartphone users which are projected to grow to 829 million by 2022. Digital platforms can be utilized to provide mental health information and interventions to support positive mental health. Recent evidence from a large-scale longitudinal randomized control trial has suggested effectiveness of mobile health interventions. Results suggest that using the mobile health intervention (vs. waitlist control group) significantly improved stress and well-being over time. Higher engagement in the intervention increased the beneficial effects.[27]

   Conclusions Top

COVID-19 pandemic has had far-reaching effects on economy. Industrial workers in general and those in unorganized sector bore the major brunt. Lost jobs, lack of shelter, poverty, malnutrition, and reverse migration have led to a parallel mental health pandemic. Mental health services will have to play a proactive role with the focus on delivering services in the community for both preventive and curative purposes. Response of industry toward protecting its workforce will have to be both prompt and comprehensive. Psychological resilience is a major determinant of recovery from adversity. Resilience-building measures in this subgroup of population may go a long way in mitigating the psychological effects of the current and future pandemics. Empowering mental healthcare delivery using digital platforms can overcome the treatment gaps due to lack of workforce, nonavailability of resources, and lack of time.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

   References Top

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COVID-19 India. Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) | Home. Available from: https://www.mohfw.gov.in/. [Last accessed on 2021 Jan 12].  Back to cited text no. 2
Gururaj G, Varghese M, Benegal V, Rao GN, Pathak K, Singh LK, et al. National Mental Health Survey of India, 2015-16: Summary. Bengaluru: National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences; 2016.  Back to cited text no. 3
Press Note on Estimates of Gross Domestic Product for the First Quarter (April-June) 2020-2021. National Statistical Office, Ministry of Statistics & Programme Implementation, Government of India. Available from: http://mospi.nic.in/sites/default/files/press_release/PRESS_NOTE-Q1_2020-21.pdf. [Last accessed on 2021 Jan 16].  Back to cited text no. 4
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World Economic Outlook Update, January 2021: Policy Support and Vaccines Expected to Lift Activity. International Monetary Fund (IMF). Available from: https://www.imf.org/en/Publications/WEO/Issues/2021/01/26/2021-world-economic-outlook-update. [Last accessed on 2021 Jan 27].  Back to cited text no. 9
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Kathirvel N. Post COVID-19 pandemic mental health challenges. Asian J Psychiatr 2020;53:102430.  Back to cited text no. 11
Galea S, Merchant RM, Lurie N. The mental health consequences of COVID-19 and physical distancing: The need for prevention and early intervention. JAMA Intern Med 2020;180:817-8.  Back to cited text no. 12
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  [Figure 1], [Figure 2]

  [Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3]


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