“We’ve got through hard times before: acute mental distress and coping among disadvantaged groups during COVID-19 lockdown in North India - a qualitative study” (2020)
Type of ContentJournal Article
PublisherSpringer Science and Business Media LLC
Background: The COVID-19 crisis in India negatively impacted mental health due to both the disease and the harsh lockdown, yet there are almost no qualitative studies describing mental health impacts or the strategies of resilience used, and in particular, no reports from the most vulnerable groups. This study aimed to examine the acute mental health impacts of the COVID-19 crisis as well as coping strategies employed by disadvantaged community members in North India. Methods: We used an intersectional lens for this qualitative study set in rural Tehri Garwhal and urban Dehradun districts of Uttarakhand, India. In-depth interviews were conducted in May 2020 during lockdown, by phone and in person using purposive selection, with people with disabilities, people living in slums with psychosocial disabilities and widows (total n = 24). We used the framework method for analysis following steps of transcription and translation, familiarisation, coding, developing and then applying a framework, charting and then interpreting data. Findings: The participants with compounded disadvantage had almost no access to mobile phones, health messaging or health care and experienced extreme mental distress and despair, alongside hunger and loss of income. Under the realms of intrapersonal, interpersonal and social, six themes related to mental distress emerged: feeling overwhelmed and bewildered, feeling distressed and despairing, feeling socially isolated, increased events of othering and discrimination, and experiencing intersectional disadvantage. The six themes summarising coping strategies in the COVID-19 crisis were: finding sense and meaning, connecting with others, looking for positive ways forward, innovating with new practices, supporting others individually and collectively, and engaging with the natural world. Conclusions: People intersectionally disadvantaged by their social identity experienced high levels of mental distress during the COVID-19 crisis, yet did not collapse, and instead described diverse and innovative strategies which enabled them to cope through the COVID-19 lockdown. This study illustrates that research using an intersectional lens is valuable to design equitable policy such as the need for access to digital resources, and that disaggregated data is needed to address social inequities at the intersection of poverty, disability, caste, religious discrimination and gender inherent in the COVID-19 pandemic in India.
CitationMathias K, Rawat M, Philip S, Grills N (2020). “We’ve got through hard times before: acute mental distress and coping among disadvantaged groups during COVID-19 lockdown in North India - a qualitative study”. International Journal for Equity in Health. 19(1). 224-.
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KeywordsHumans; Acute Disease; Adaptation, Psychological; Stress, Psychological; Mental Disorders; Quarantine; Qualitative Research; Poverty; Adult; Middle Aged; Vulnerable Populations; India; Female; Male; Pandemics; COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2
ANZSRC Fields of Research42 - Health sciences::4203 - Health services and systems::420313 - Mental health services
44 - Human society::4410 - Sociology::441011 - Sociology of health
42 - Health sciences::4206 - Public health::420602 - Health equity
42 - Health sciences::4203 - Health services and systems::420305 - Health and community services
42 - Health sciences::4203 - Health services and systems::420311 - Health systems
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