China’s weeks-long COVID-19 lockdown has had a huge impact on mental health, with more than 40% of the city’s 26 million residents reporting symptoms of depression in a recent survey.
People in Shanghai have struggled with food shortages, barriers to medical treatment, repeated masses, mandatory PCR and antigen testing, and the constant threat of being sent to an isolation camp or makeshift hospital, seeing their pets killed and their homes ransacked by ‘disinfection teams’, or being welded inside their homes by local officials intent on hitting the right quotas in service of the Chinese leader’s zero COVID policy Xi Jinping.
A survey of more than 1,000 Shanghai residents by the @Zhaoluming Weibo account found that more than 400 said they felt “depressed mood” during the lockdown.
A resident of downtown Shanghai, surnamed Wang, said he believed the actual number of depressed people could be much higher.
” Forty percent ? I would say more like 80%,” Wang said. “Everyone has resentments and their psychology is not quite normal, entire communities locked up like animals in a zoo.”
Qiu Jianzhen, director of the psychological counseling and treatment outpatient department at the Shanghai Mental Health Center, said in a recent interview with state broadcaster CCTV that the number of calls to the center’s psychological hotline had nearly tripled in the past month to more than 3,000.
Eighty percent of callers cited the pandemic as a problem for their mental health, Qiu said.
“If you need to see a doctor or call an ambulance, the neighborhood committee must sign with a certificate and a letter of commitment,” Wang told RFA. “There’s a lot of anger about it, because what if it’s urgent?”
“Most of the people who live in my compound are temporary workers, so if they can’t work they don’t get paid,” he said. “Even if they lift the lockdown, who is going to compensate us for the loss of more than a month’s income?”
“How can small business owners do this…when they themselves go bankrupt?”
Wang lives in a low-income neighborhood in Puxi with her family and mostly worried about how to feed her children when the lockdown hit.
“Adults might be able to get by with frozen food, but I was worried that the kids wouldn’t have milk or fruit,” Wang said. “We would try to make a 950ml bottle of milk last a few days, but what would we do next?”
And it’s not just the economically marginalized who suffer.
Wang said the burden on working parents will likely increase now as people gradually return to work.
“My former co-worker was complaining about now having to try to grab food, keep up with antigen and PCR tests, talk to their kids’ teachers, all while attending video call meetings,” he said. he declares. “She’s going crazy.”
Wang said the cost of people’s wellbeing was very visible in her neighborhood.
“There were people jumping off the top of a building in the residential area next to us, and I’ve seen news of people jumping off buildings, not just in text, but also in music videos. , which have a psychological impact in themselves,” Wang said. .
“It’s hard not to be depressed in such circumstances,” he said.
A white-collar worker named Li, who works for a major foreign company, said he sought psychological counseling during the lockdown when he had no financial worries.
“It’s like being incarcerated for one or two months,” Li said. “The loss of freedom over a long period of time will give rise to many negative emotions, the most important of which is anger.”
“I totally lost control”
A resident of Jing’an District nicknamed Sun said she suffered a nervous breakdown due to authorities’ chaotic handling of COVID-19 mass testing, after she began showing symptoms on 1st Maybut found himself without a PCR test despite his request.
“On the night of May 6, I went completely crazy, I called the emergency services several times”, Sun mentioned. “I totally lost control.”
“If the ambulance hadn’t come, I would have rushed there… and started spreading the virus.”
Ultimately, Sun and her symptomatic family were taken to an isolation center, but she suspects the delay in testing was due to a political attempt to massage new numbers.
She pointed to repeated complaints on social media that officials appeared to be handing out test results and changing them at will.
“There were people who tested positive and they said they were negative, and people who tested negative who they said were positive,” Sun mentioned.
At universities, students have complained about unclean food and a lack of support for their mental health.
A psychology professor named Chen says a woman had to spend thousands of yuan escaping the city by private taxi after being stuck in a food shortage situation while suffering from anorexia nervosa .
“She couldn’t eat and her mental state was very bad,” he said. “She relapsed [of anorexia] after being stuck inside the dorm since early March.”
Serene, an international school counselor, said many of her students have returned to their parents, while mental health issues have doubled among those who have stayed.
“It’s mostly conflicts with parents, but since the pandemic also difficulties with distance learning,” she said. “There is also the lack of interaction with peers and the lack of social support.”
“One of my students had difficulty with interpersonal communication, but he had bravely started taking the first steps before the pandemic and had made connections,” she said. “But when the pandemic hit…he told me he was worried he’d never make any friends again.”
Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.