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COVID-19 pandemic in India: through psycho-social lens


  • Aparna Joshi

    (Tata Institute of Social Sciences)


COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented crisis that simultaneously affected different countries and communities across the globe. The large-scale psychosocial impact of the pandemic and the subsequent lockdown, is an experiential reality for many, in India. Despite this impact, a closer look at India’s response to the pandemic shows that the two strands of health and relief measures, continue to occupy centre-stage. The psycho-social aspects of the pandemic unfortunately largely remain undocumented and unaddressed. Using experiences of iCALL, National national level psycho-social counseling counselling service and a field action project of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, the paper throws light on the much-neglected experiential psycho-social dimensions of COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown in India. It describes the stressors experienced by users who approached iCALL and the consequent impact; especially among those who belonged to the vulnerable sections of the society. The nature of stressors as well as the impact reported by iCALL users, clearly points out to a complex interplay among several factors at individual, interpersonal, community and structural levels. The paper then, critically looks at the merits and limitations of the mental health framework that predominated the mental health response during the pandemic with its bio-medical and individualistic undertones; and suggests an alternative framing using a ‘psycho-social’ paradigm that views distress as an interaction between the psychological and social worlds. The paper asserts reciprocal linkages between development and psycho-social distress; highlighting the need to consciously integrate mental health issues into the development response. In the end, it makes an appeal for an inter sectoral dialogue, integrated response and advocacy for investing in mental health and psycho-social infrastructure to effectively respond to the pandemic.

Suggested Citation

  • Aparna Joshi, 2021. "COVID-19 pandemic in India: through psycho-social lens," Journal of Social and Economic Development, Springer;Institute for Social and Economic Change, vol. 23(2), pages 414-437, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:jsecdv:v:23:y:2021:i:2:d:10.1007_s40847-020-00136-8
    DOI: 10.1007/s40847-020-00136-8

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Hatzenbuehler, M.L. & Phelan, J.C. & Link, B.G., 2013. "Stigma as a fundamental cause of population health inequalities," American Journal of Public Health, American Public Health Association, vol. 103(5), pages 813-821.
    2. Sahoo, Harihar & Biswal, R.K., 2020. "Impact of Covid 19 on Mental Health: Whether India is prepared to handle the crisis?," MPRA Paper 100765, University Library of Munich, Germany.
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    Cited by:

    1. Kai Yin & Anirban Mondal & Martial Ndeffo-Mbah & Paromita Banerjee & Qimin Huang & David Gurarie, 2022. "Bayesian Inference for COVID-19 Transmission Dynamics in India Using a Modified SEIR Model," Mathematics, MDPI, vol. 10(21), pages 1-18, October.

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