Hope still lingers despite prolonged suffering

Sangay Rabten

The prolonged lockdown is now taking a psychological toll on the residents of Phuentsholing.

A good majority of Phuentsholing residents are believed to be undergoing depression due to the long-stretched lockdown that has now stretched to more than a 100 days.

Though it may not be to the level psychological definition, the residents say undoubtedly the increased incidences of social isolation, economic hardships and exposure to other stressors have contributed in mood swings and many domestic issues.

It was also found that certain groups are at greater risk of depression symptoms, especially lower income groups having meager household savings.

Running a hired restaurant in the town, Sumitra Subba, 39, said the prolonged lockdown has affected her business and has eaten away at her mental health. She said, “The lockdown had blocked the lifeblood of my livelihood and has traumatized me mentally.”

Had there been no lockdown, she said that from her restaurant she could pay the rents and look after her child. However, after the business was closed following successive lockdowns Sumitra said that being a single mother paying bills and rentals on time has become a nightmare, and which has added to her stress.

She said that nothing other than the Royal Kidu have helped relieve Sumitra from her sufferings. She said that till date she had used the kidu money to pay all her monthly expenses and that it would have been hard had it not been for this intervention from the Golden Throne.

She said her generous neighbours have also come forward in solidarity and helped her both in cash and kind. She stated that going back to the village wasn’t an option as she had pinned all her hopes on this new life in Phuentsholing.

“The only option I have is to continue with same the business and pay back the borrowed money. But I am worried that I will not be able to continue at this rate,” she said, adding that she is worried and frustrated thinking about their future, and that the lockdown further intensified it.

Pema Wangmo, 27, who runs a mini cement agent in Phuentsholing said the restrictions of almost five months have caused her mental distress. Deprived of income and having had to pay rents of her go-down and apartment, she said it was a massive undertaking to live without earning.

However, according to some residents, languishing without jobs and earnings was not the only factor that aggravated to the tensions.

Many say isolation and uncertainties have contributed to depression symptoms in people of all socioeconomic backgrounds.

A resident Pema said, “Locked up inside the four walls for long have caused physical, emotional, and psychological distress. I feel like going to the top of the mountain and shout my lungs out and breathe fresh air.”

Facing similar predicaments, Karma Tshering who runs a restaurant said he is also experiencing a mental trauma with worries of how to reopen the business with no capital besides having to pay rents, bills and look after the family.    

Another resident Dema Yuden had also experienced such feelings of hopelessness similar to many others living in the town.

Dechen Pema shared that though the difficult situation was eased by the Royal Kidu scheme; however, with untimely delivery of grocery items it affected the daily chores and caused a lot of distress.

She said that being locked up inside room for long duration had suffocated the people. She said, “Without open air, it has affected both the physical and mental wellbeing of the residents, especially children. We really want to go out in sun.”

Another frustrated resident Dema Yuden said that after having stayed inside the house for long she felt a sudden urge to be out and become normal again. She said the prolonged lockdown has taken a toll on her mental state of being.

A Kidu recipient and living in the Toorsa housing colony,  Sita Dhungyel, said that though everything was made comfortable under the leadership of His Majesty, the lockdown has come a tad too harsh for them.

 “I felt lonely and depressed but the thought that His Majesty was making immense sacrifices for our wellbeing kept me going,” Sita said.