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Heat Wave In India: Can Summer Heat Negatively Impact Mental Health?

As per recent news, India is facing a severe heat wave this year with a record-breaking temperature of over 40-degree-Celcius, affecting more than a billion people.[1]

Summer heat causes a great impact on both our physical and mental health. According to a study, people, especially those with pre-existing mental health disorders, are vulnerable to extreme heat as it causes an increase in irritability and depressive symptoms, leading to an increased risk of suicides. [2]

Extreme heat is also responsible for changes in behaviour such as an increase in aggression, mainly due to a reduction in the ability to cope with stress. These symptoms may contribute to increased use of alcohol and domestic violence.

Here, we will discuss a link between summer heat and the worsening of mental health disorders. Take a look.

How Does Summer Heat Affect Mental Health?

The summer heat can affect mental health and behaviours of individuals and may increase their irritability, stress, aggression and depressive symptoms.

Excessive heat is also linked to problems with attention, memory and response time. It is also known to cause difficulties in sleep and lead to problems such as insomnia. A study has shown that increased heat may lead to insomnia, and if the hot weather is combined with humidity, there could be an increase in psychiatric problems and coping abilities. [3]

Summer heat affects the mental health of healthy individuals too, however, the effects are largely seen in people with pre-existing medical conditions like schizophrenia.

People with schizophrenia have problems related to dysregulation of body temperature. The impaired ability of their bodies to compensate for the heat stress may cause them problems such as heat strokes and dizziness. [4]

People with dementia are also at increased risk of emergency department visits and death due to summer heat. It may lead to behavioural changes and an increase in agitation in people with dementia or Alzheimer's, someone who is already going through a lot of anxiety, aggression and other mental health problems. [5]

Summer Heat Symptoms

Summer heat may cause certain mental health symptoms such as: [6]

  • Increased irritation
  • Anguished
  • Aggression
  • Acts of violence
  • Suicide attempts
  • Loss of interest in favourite activities.

Mango Special Recipes: How To Prepare Summer-Friendly And Tasty Mango Chickpea Salad

Other symptoms include: [7]

  • Dehydration
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Excessive sweating
  • Muscle cramps
  • High body temperature

Treatment And Management

1. Stay hydrated

Drinking plenty of fluids and staying hydrated may help regulate the body temperature and keep it cool during the summer. Experts suggest not to wait until one experiences thirst, but to consume fluids throughout the day, especially after the meals. Also, avoid caffeinated drinks and look out for signs such as dry mouth and dizziness or heat stroke. [8]

2. Eat light foods

Another way is to eat foods which are light, less oily and cold instead of hot. Some of the foods include summer fruits like watermelon, cucumber, mango and litchi and vegetables like tomatoes and squash. [9]

3. Dress according to the weather

To allow the body to escape the heat and stay cool, wear lightweight, loose-fitting and light-coloured clothing and avoid wearing layered clothes. Also, make sure that the material of the cloth is breathable.

4. Stay indoors

The best to stay calm, cool and away from the summer heat is by staying indoors, and in air conditioning when possible. Avoid going out, especially in the afternoon and if it cannot be avoided, make sure to apply sunscreen, wear light clothes and take fluids with you.

To Conclude

Summer heat can be hard; studies say that even a one-degree rise in temperature can lead to mental health problems such as anxiety disorders, mood swings and neurotic activities. It is suggested to avoid the heat as much as possible by following the aforementioned ways and maintaining your mental health conditions.

Helpline Numbers:

1. COOJ Mental Health Foundation (COOJ)- Helpline: 0832-2252525 | 01:00 PM - 07:00 PM | Monday to Friday

2. Parivarthan- Helpline: +91 7676 602 602 | 10:00 AM to 10:00 PM | Monday to Friday

3. Connecting Trust- Helpline: +91 992 200 1122 | +91-992 200 4305 | 12:00 PM to 08:00 PM | All days of the week

4. Roshni Trust- Helpline: 040-66202000, 040-66202001 | 11:00 AM - 09:00 PM | Monday to Sunday

5. Sahai - 080-25497777 / SAHAIHELPLINE@GMAIL.COM
This helpline is a service provided by Medico Pastoral Association (MPA) and is run by trained active volunteers. If any caller requires face to face counselling, they are referred to MPA counsellors who are fully trained.

6. Sumaitri - 011-23389090 / FEELINGSUICIDAL@SUMAITRI.NET

A crisis intervention centre for the depressed, distressed and suicidal. The Helpline provides unconditional and unbiased emotional support to callers, visitors or those who write in.

7. Sneha - 044-24640050 (24 HOURS) / 044-24640060 8 AM - 10 PM / HELP@SNEHAINDIA.ORG
A suicide prevention organisation that offers emotional support for the depressed, desperate and the suicidal.

8. Lifeline - LIFELINEKOLKATA@GMAIL.COM - 033-24637401 / 033-24637432
Lifeline offers a free tele-helpline providing emotional support to people who are in despair, depressed or suicidal. Face to face befriending with prior appointment is also available.
10 AM - 6 PM

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