India needs to brace for the ‘Great Depression’ and it is not just about jobs

The scientific community and the media bring little cheer to people, who are increasingly going through panic and anxiety attacks. Some are losing their reason for living

India needs to brace for the ‘Great Depression’ and it is not just about jobs

(Retd) Lt General UK Sharma

Harry S Truman, a past President of USA famously said, “It’s a recession when your neighbour loses his job. It’s a depression when you lose your own.” But I will like to go with Jo Nesbø, the famous Norwegian writer who once said, “Losing your life is not the worst thing that can happen. The worst thing is to lose your reason for living.”

COVID-19 continues its relentless march across continents in its sixth month. Although some claims have been made that it may have started in August 2019, the first definite case was reported on 31 Dec 2019 giving it the suffix 19. A day later, it would’ve been called Covid-20, a New Year ‘gift’ to the world.

What it has gifted to the world is a collection of ironies. The air is cleaner but we are all masked. There is thin traffic on the roads yet we are locked up in our own homes. We have plenty of time to spend with our loved ones provided we maintain a physical distance from them. The list goes on and on.

But the Great Depression we see around us is not the mere ruining of global economy following ‘total lockdowns’ in various nations of the world. The depression I refer to is the mental depression that a large number of people are experiencing all over the globe. The dictionary meaning of depression is severe feeling of dejection and despondency. That is not difficult to understand.

Newspapers are filled with negative news. Factories that have shut down and retrenchments that have happened everywhere have brought in their wake a meteoric rise in unemployment. Lockdowns that forced us to stay at home and often confined to ourselves have made the future tense and uncertain. Various predictions and solutions to the problem have fallen like nine pins. Deaths which seemed distant and mere figures have begun to call on our own near and dear ones.

Psychiatrists define depression as a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. Also called major depressive disorder or clinical depression, it affects how you feel, think and behave and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems.

We see this happening all around us on a daily basis. The initial feeling that humanity needed this dose of a killer virus to put its act together has gradually dissipated. Its place has been taken by a profound sadness that is not helped by repeated pronouncements that the virus is here to stay.

The movies that we watched on Amazon Prime and Netflix interest us no more. The games we invented and played with our children to keep them engaged and confined to home have all dried up. Our physical distancing and our masked faces have even hidden our emotions and confined them to within our minds.

The inexorable march of the virus, and the resultant death and destruction of all that defines human civilization and society has hardly left any population unscathed. Stories of greed, inhuman behavior, desperate looting, religious, racial, ethnic and political intolerance have all had their deleterious effect on human mind.

Initial pronouncements of the medical experts and Governments gave people plenty of hope. They happily participated in the Governmental efforts to contain the virus. But when hope begins to weaken, depression follows. In the early days, one would hear neighbours discussing the virus and the efforts of our administrators from their balconies and on phones. That has stopped of late.

Perversely, we all look up the latest score of the new infections and deaths on the Worldometer app every morning and go quieter. The forwards received from friends on the need to remain positive are barely glanced at.

The medical diagnosis is fairly obvious. It is the coming of Great Depression.

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