Cash crunch affecting mental health, say psychiatrists

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Centre’s demonetisation decision is taking toll on the mental health of many cash strapped businessmen in rural areas of West Bengal whose entire sales are in cash. Within a couple of days of the announcement, a potato wholeseller started having panic attacks since he has about Rs 50 to Rs 60 lakh of the perishable agriculture produce lying in a cold storage.

He buys potato on credit in bulk and sells it in cash to smaller traders but now, as a result of cash crunch, there are no buyers. “The wholeseller fears that his entire stock will go waste, incurring him a huge loss. He was suffering from panic and anxiety attacks and thought he will die,” Senior consultant psychiatrist Sanjay Garg told PTI.

According to psychiatrists, they have been getting a significant number of patients suffering from mental stress after the centre’s move to demonetise Rs 500 and Rs 1000 currency notes. Garg said that most of such patients are from middle and upper-middle class families belonging from rural Bengal where the reach of plastic money is limited.

Another psychiatrist Santasree Gupta said, “One of her patient is a 50-year-old widow who inherited Rs 30 lakh in cash savings from her deceased husband. “She had plans to buy a flat and spend the rest of the amount in her son’s marriage. And now she is feeling very insecure. She had to put her on short-term medication to help her control the stress,” Gupta said. Asis Ray, who owns a hotel in beach towns of Puri and Digha, was brought to a psychiatrist’s clinic by his family as he started drinking heavily and snapping at kids.

Besides panic attacks, people are also suffering from irritable behaviour syndrome, Garg said. “There was a sudden drop in his business as tourist inflow dried up. Even those staying in his hotels are having a tough time paying bills. This brought him psychological distress leading to behavioural change,” he said.

Scrapping of notes has brought problems for the existing patients too and others who were undergoing treatment are now finding it difficult to keep their appointments as they have little cash to meet doctor’s fees and travel costs. “If they miss their appointments their situation will aggravate,” the doctor said.

Besides medication for immediate relief, the psychaitric patients are being prescribed relaxation therapy and distraction techniques. “Deep breathing, listening to music and exercises like walking can help in calming nerves and relaxing the mind. One can also distract their mind by pursuing their hobbies,” Garg said.

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