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Doomscrolling, languishing and survivor’s guilt: The three sabers of doom of a nation’s mental well-being

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Mannat Arora
Mannat Arora
Mannat is a 12th grader at Seth Anandram Jaipuria School in Kanpur. She takes a keen interest in psychology and plans to pursue it in the future. She is an avid reader, and hopes to help eliminate the stigma associated with mental health in India.

As countless news outlets and social media pages have relayed to you, today, India’s healthcare system lies at the brink of collapse, and no one but our government is to blame. Fear engulfs me as I flip through the newspaper or scroll down on Twitter, the fear of what tomorrow may look like, if there is one. In the seventeen years that I have lived on this planet, and in this country, I have witnessed attacks of terrorism, riots over religion, towns ablaze over politics, and endless sorrow over our broken democratic system, and yet I couldn’t have even vaguely imagined the helplessness I feel now. And it only seems to get worse. 

Doomscrolling, a frequent practice amidst the pandemic, is the act of mindlessly and impulsively consuming bad news through social media or news sites. On multiple occasions I have caught myself spending hours, eyes glued to the screen, breathing in the country’s plight. I understand the temptation of picking up your phone and going straight to Twitter, be it just to catch up on the news. And then, before you know it, you’ve lost four hours and you still can’t stop. Even though it’s hard to resist the urge of not knowing what’s happening at all times, we must limit our screen time. The internet is flooded with traumatic images and videos that can only cause distress. As important as it is to be sympathetic towards the suffering of our fellow citizens, we must also pay heed to our own mental health. On the surface, it may sound selfish or irresponsible, but consider what good doomscrolling could possibly bring. We can only be of help to others if we have our minds about us. 

Another dominant emotion in 2021 is “languishing.” You may have encountered it when you saw your assignments piling up but felt as if there was nothing you could do about it, or when a simple task like showering or making your bed was “a lot.” As described by Adam Grant, “it’s a sense of stagnation and emptiness.” It may not be apparent, but it feels like a loss of purpose. Symptoms include lack of motivation, burnout, or numbness. It is very real and adversely affects our ability to be active or productive, and contrary to what many school teachers and college professors believe, it’s not synonymous with laziness. It feels confusing, as if you’re viewing your life in the third person, unsure when you’ll feel like yourself again. However, you must know that you are not alone in this and that there is an army of people out there who can relate to your sentiments and like you, might be waiting for someone to start the conversation. Unfortunately, there is no conclusive cure to languishing, but the first step towards improvement can be recognizing and naming your problem.

Another mental health condition that has exacerbated during the second wave of covid-19 is “survivor’s guilt” or “survivor’s syndrome.” It is most common amongst recovered covid-19 patients. Multiple recovered patients have stated that they feel guilty about “hoarding” beds or medicines that they may not have needed as much as the next person. This guilt increases with age, as one begins to feel as though they have lived long enough and someone youthful better deserves the treatment they’re receiving. The number of deaths we hear about on a daily basis is heartbreaking and as we look at these staggering figures or the photographs of overcrowded crematoriums, it is likely we experience a sense of shame. While the country gasps for air and loses its dignity over basic amenities, it feels wrong to be doing just okay. This guilt can also stem from privilege- of having a steady job or being able to afford and access healthcare resources in this era of financial ruin. Although one must realize that it’s not an individual’s fault for feeling this way, even if they come from a place of privilege. We are currently undergoing immense and unprecedented trauma to which nobody is immune.

India has always had a bone to pick with mental health, but in such times when we reek of grief and anxiety, it has become critical to speak up. Who would have thought that in our teenage years, instead of worrying about examinations and gossiping with friends, we’d be worried about arranging oxygen cylinders and plasma, and calling up absolute strangers for the same? I certainly didn’t. Although not widely discussed, Doomscrolling, Languishing and Survivor’s Guilt are real issues which, if left unaddressed, can transform into full-blown mental health disorders. Most of us, whether we realize it or not, have feeble mental health at the moment and the only way to get better is to engage in self-care practices and therapy. And as clichéd as it may sound, I’d like to remind you that “This too shall pass.” But until it does, know that it’s okay to want to lay in your bed and wallow, it’s okay if you skip a shower, it’s okay to take a break from work, it’s okay; because none of what’s happening around is. 

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Mannat Arora
Mannat Arora
Mannat is a 12th grader at Seth Anandram Jaipuria School in Kanpur. She takes a keen interest in psychology and plans to pursue it in the future. She is an avid reader, and hopes to help eliminate the stigma associated with mental health in India.
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