Sunday, December 20, 2020

Mental Health of India’s Corona Warriors: An often overlooked aspect of the pandemic

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Raya Tripathi

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Mental Health of India’s Corona Warriors: An often overlooked aspect of the pandemic

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Global Views 360

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December 20, 2020

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Mental Health Representative Image | Source: rawpixel.com via Freepik

It’s been almost a year since the Covid 19 first started spreading in Wuhan, China and spread to all parts of the world, turning into a pandemic. This has brought along with it an unusual situation for everyone around the world—people were locked up inside their homes and everything was shut. Only the doctors,  healthcare workers and other emergency service workers were working long hours, often going without proper sleep and food. Working day and night, like robots, is not natural for human beings, and therefore, has its consequences.

Mental health in India

Mental health of people is deteriorating globally, and the worst impact can be seen for the corona warriors.

Many people in India do not care about mental health and rubbish it off due to lack of awareness about the problem. They don’t consider it as a health problem just like any other illness, these are not much discussions or consultations with the experts, even when there is a clear sign of a person suffering from it. This state of affir is one of the major contributing factor for the high suicide rates in India.

The taboo associated with discussing mental health, dissuades the person who is suffering or their family members to discuss and take the help from experts as they fear that any revelation of mental health issues can tarnish their image in the society. There are still instances that people seeking professional help are labelled mentally weak or simply ‘‘mad’. Due to superstition still persisting in society, many believe mentally ill people to be 'possessed' by some evil spirit. This forces a large number of people to visit some Godmen or Exorcists to get it cured, rather than going to a professional.

This pandemic and the subsequent lockdown has exacerbated the mental stress and resulted in a spike in the instances of anxiety and depression among the population all over the world. The healthcare workers, fighting the pandemic in the frontline as Corona Warrier, are more exposed to the dangers associated with it. Although the frontline healthcare workers are now sufficiently protected from the direct impact of the virus, their deteriorating mental health still remains an unforeseen challenge.

What are the problems faced by corona warriors in India?

Healthcare workers are responding quickly and moving in vans in many places for testing the Covid patients. They are working hard to take care of everything from regular check- up to specialised testing for the ailing people. But, what about the physical and mental health of these health workers who are serving the patients with highly contagious disease, day and night, despite feeling homesick and tired.According to a report in Indian express, Dr. Kinjal Nadia, a doctor in Gujarat's Jamnagar, said, “Spending eight hours in a PPE suit is the toughest thing to do. One can’t even drink a glass of water though has to speak loudly to be heard by patients and assistants”.

There are incidents of suicide among thejunior doctors from AIIMS Delhi and RG Kar Medical College, Kolkata, which in itself describe the mental status of doctors and healthcare workers. Furthermore, around 80% of the doctors, especially younger ones, are at a very high risk of burning out due to constant pressure by the people, press and the administration to manage the extraordinary workload of testing, diagnosing, treating and curing  the patients, successfully.

In order to manage the huge influx of patients, at many places, doctors and healthcare workers are being hired temporarily, which acts as a catalyst for stress which they are already facing. This has also led to protests by the healthcare workers, including the nurses of AIIMS Patna, for making their employment permanent.

There had been a lack of PPE kits and proper protection against the virus for the healthcare professionals in many places, which increased the danger of exposing them to the virus and putting their lives in danger. There have been many incidents narrated by the doctors and the patients about dirty floors and filthy bathrooms in government hospitals of India.

A report on Firstpost mentioned about the usage of unhygienic food and dirty bed-sheets at government-run Kasturba hospital in Mumbai. An online petition against this situation had garnered over 100,000 signatures.

A news article from the New Indian Express tells that in Bengaluru, Dr. Manohar KN, with his colleagues, conducted a survey to assess the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on the mental well being of the healthcare workers. Over two thousand doctors, nurses and technical staff, aged between 20 and 65 years, participated in this survey, which was conducted in 26 states and union territories of India. This incidentally was the largest survey of its kind in the world.

The most shocking finding of the survey was that the healthcare workers were mostly in a sad mood, and the most optimistic ones (around 70%) were also becoming pessimistic. Even after wearing heavy PPE kits, masks, gloves, face shields all day long, which in itself is exhausting, they were constantly afraid of catching the virus.

Even the families of these corona warriors are worried. Many of them have succumbed to the coronavirus while saving people from it. They don’t get to meet their families while working during the pandemic, and sometimes end up never meeting again.

Are there any mental health services in India?

India, at the moment doesn’t have adequate infrastructure to diagnose and treat the people suffering with mental health issues. also there are not enough organisations or programs which can help in raising the awareness and mitigating misinformation regarding mental health issues. The availability of psychologists in India is grossly inadequate to take care of the mental health of a population of more than 130 crores.

However, the wide adoption of online meetings during the pandemic has come as a big boost to increasing the reach of online psychological counselling through video conferencing. This has enabled the patients to consult the doctors and counsellors  remotely through video links, which reduced the chances of spreading the virus. But not everyone has access to such facilities.

What is the government doing about it?

The government issued a guide in April 2020 for general medical and specialised mental health care settings to be followed during Covid 19 pandemic and also launched a helpline for mental health issues during lockdown. However, when it comes to regular mental health care, India is behind most of the countries. If a country does not even have basic health care for each and every of its citizens, how can it provide them with ‘world class' mental health services?

According to WHO, India ranks second among countries with the greatest burden of disease for mental and behavioral disorders. Most of the mental health disorders go unreported, as people never let others know about it, because in India, this becomes a matter of shame and losing their pride.

Clearly, the healthcare professionals seem tough from the outside, and fight bravely, but on the inside, they’re struggling with their own issues which need to be attended.

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January 18, 2021 2:21 PM

The Toxicity in Video Games and Cyberpunk 2077

Cyberpunk 2077, the most awaited video game was released on consoles and PC on 10th of December, 2020. The game went under 10 years of build-up and had kept gamers waiting for over 8 years. Cyberpunk 2077 is inspired by a cult-favourite tabletop roleplaying game. The video game was designed by well-known Polish studio, CD Projekt Red. Cyberpunk was the studio’s first big console game since The Witcher 3: Wild hunt which was an extraordinarily triumphant game that won numerous awards after its launch in 2015.

The popular video game, when released, faced backlash from the gaming community and non-gamers for several reasons. To many observers and gamers, Cyberpunk 2077 even proved to be an absolute failure. Several gamers called out the game developers for the promotion of sexiest ideologies and transphobia. However, the reviews weren’t well received by the fans. Cyberpunk 2077 fans responded with unacceptable abuses, harrasing and hateful messages and even rape and death threats.

Keanu Reeves in Cyberpunk 2077

Cyberpunk 2077 released ample previews, trailers, motion pictures and marketing material. Aside from this, the appearence of popular Canadian actor, Keanu Reeves as a character in the game carved the expectations of gamers and promised a sexy and kinky world of futuristic and revolutionary action. CD Projekt Red, one of Europe’s most successful video game company announced Cyberpunk 2077 project in 2012 and released the first trailer in 2013

The game is set in an alternate timeline in the city of California. The streets in the game are owned by tyrannical corporations. Everyone in the game modifies their body with illegal technology. Much of the state in the video game setting is said to be suffering from the impacts of a major nuclear attack which happened years ago. Every player gets to be a cyber-enhanced human who has to fight against physical and psychological threats to their survival. The game character of Keanu Reeves comes in as your sidekick.

In 2018, the developers insisted and had assured the gamers that Cyberpunk 2077 would not include in game purchases. CD Projekt Red did not want to lock any content behind a paywall. The studio was also insistent that the game would come out only when it was completely “ready”. They announced that the release would take place in April 2020 but it was delayed multiple times due to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as other quality problems that the game was facing. When it was finally released in December 2020, gamers expected their experience of the game to be “worth the wait”. However, the video game wasn’t well revived by all. In spite of several months of work that went into making and developing the game, the game was launched with several technical issues. Players on both PC and consoles were having terrible experiences. As a result of multiple glitches and technical problems, the characters’ faces were obscured and the game would reset randomly. Some of the environments or areas of the game map was unappealing. The game even caused consoles to crash repeatedly and sometimes sacrificed players’ progress. One glitch led to characters’ breasts and penises being exposed. The characters’ genitals would poke out of their clothes. CD Projeckt Red offered refunds to players who were disappointed with the product. In fact, they updated a self-review discouraging gamers from playing the game on console until the game was fixed and improved.

Cyberpunk 2077 was roundly criticized by reviewers, game designers, industry insiders and other gamers across the gaming community. The wait and hype for the game had already created a fanbase which turned toxic by harassing reviewers who criticised the game.

There is another reason why the game wasn’t well received. Cyberpunk 2077 transphobia was apparent in the game contradicting the fact that the developers had claimed that the game was ahead of its time. The game has an incredibly detailed character creation menu. The players can control several aspects of their character’s appearance including the shapes and size of the genitals. The game even allows players to decline the option of including genitals to their characters. However, this isn’t the problem and is in fact appreciable. The idea of not determining gender by the character’s genitals in fact made many trans players happy. But this soon turned into disbelief and disappointment. The gamers realised that the game actually assigned the gender to the characters not based on their genitals but rather by the voice. Characters with higher-pitched voices were identified as females and characters with deep-voiced characters were assigned male pronouns. This purports the toxic idea that people’s gender can be determined by certain traits. A non-sexist video game would determine the gender of a player’s character based on an independent choice made by players themselves. This is uninfluenced by other physical traits or qualities.

Several reviewers called out Cyberpunk 2077 for promoting sexist ideologies. Unfortunately, toxic fans harassed the reviewers. “You just KNOW when you're going to get harassed. If the game with all the hype has anything wrong with it, and you're honest about that, or even just want to provide any context outside of ‘it's fun’, you're going to get harassed. It's a given.” These were precisely what Susan Arendt, a podcast host quoted. She even second guessed herself whether sharing her true opinions was worth the hateful, threatening and harassing messages that she received.

Controversial Tweet by Cyberpunk 2077 Twitter Handle

In the early days of arcade, gaming was a family activity. The popular male dominance and stereotype that only boys or men are good at video games were perpetuated in the past three decades. We observe this change due to sexualisation of video games. Today, most video games aren’t family friendly as they include explicit and sexual content. This, in fact, is a marketing tactic used by developers to target the male population. In 2018, a Cyberpunk 2077 fan who was awaiting the game at that point of time tweeted that the user wanted to see more from the “guys” at CDPR. In response to this tweet, CD Projekt Red tweeted, “Did you just assume their gender?!”. On the look of it, the tweet seems innocent but it is a joke at the expense of the trans community. After receiving backlash to the tweet, CDPR took it down and issued an apology staying sorry to “all those offended”. The apology seems like another targeted mockery and CDPR did no right by not taking responsibility for its actions.

Not only is Cyberpunk2077 transphobic and sexist, it is non user friendly as well. The game has several epilepsy triggers without any warnings about it. There are several instances and situations in the game where the effects and the graphics are brighter, louder and flashing. This is a general trigger for seizures. Liana Rupert, a player of Cyberpunk 2077 suffered a major seizure and at several moments felt that she was close to another one. After bringing this to the notice of CD Projekt Red, the company agreed to add trigger warnings wherever necessary.  

The gaming industry has definitely taken a few steps forward in terms of inclusivity of all genders but has also taken a few steps backward. While all genders are welcome, they still face harassment and judgement for simply existing in the community and need a lot more improvement.

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