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Manipur’s decision to mute ambulance sirens is a reminder of Covid anxiety9 min read

May 30, 2021 6 min read


Manipur’s decision to mute ambulance sirens is a reminder of Covid anxiety9 min read

Reading Time: 6 minutes

In what may seem like an odd decision, the government of Manipur has ordered for the muting of ambulance sirens across the state. Why is this being done, you ask? Isn’t it important that we know when an ambulance is passing so we can make way for it?

Well, the government there thinks that silencing the sirens on ambulances will prevent anxiety and nervousness amid the second wave of Covid-19.

Owliver’s Obscure Observations

What is anxiety?

The American Psychological Association defines anxiety as “an emotion characterised by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure.” However, not all feelings of anxiety need medical help. It’s when people develop an anxiety disorder, which can be identified by a professional, do they need medical attention.

The state medical directorate spoke to the chief medical officers, medical superintendents, employees of private hospitals, and ambulance operators, urging them to silence sirens as they are “intimidating people and causing social concern”.

“They are using the siren unnecessarily and untimely. When they are on the road, they simply use ambulance sirens whether they carry the patient or not. While carrying the patient, if there is a block on the way, they can use the siren, but otherwise, it is not necessary, especially during this hour,” said K Rajo Singh, Director, Manipur Health Services.

To really understand the motive behind this decision is to understand the toll this difficult time has taken on mental health (read Owliver’s guide to mental health https://www.owliverspost.com/a-healthy-mind-for-a-healthy-body/). Let’s talk specifically about anxiety.

Talking about fear and anxiety amid the pandemic, Monisha Sharma, a psychotherapist with Inara Collective in Bengaluru, told Owliver, “In this pandemic, we as a community are collectively experiencing grief, loss and trauma. While the physical isolation is keeping us safe, the emotional isolation* is taking a toll on our wellbeing.

From an evolutionary perspective**, we understand that fear and anxiety are protective mechanisms that help us survive – they tell us to ‘watch out! There’s a threat, something harmful is about to happen. Take care!’ They make us take the measures we might need to protect ourselves – like following safety precautions.

The call on whether the sirens need to be turned off on ambulances should really be focused on why ambulances are equipped with sirens in the first place – to alert traffic and first responders that there’s a medical emergency.

However, to address fear and anxiety during these times, it’s essential to put the emphasis on the need for psychiatric and psychotherapeutic interventions to be included in Covid treatment.”


*Physical isolation is pretty straightforward, it means physically being away from others. But what does emotional isolation mean? It is the state wherein despite having people around us, we feel alone and disconnected from them.

**An evolutionary perspective of personality proposes that our personalities and individual differences have evolved to help us figure out the best ways to adapt and survive!

Covid-19 anxiety syndrome

According to World Health Organization, “fear, worry, and stress are normal responses to perceived or real threats, and at times when we are faced with uncertainty or the unknown. So it is normal and understandable that people are experiencing fear in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Despite vaccines being rolled out now and a (slow) decline in the number of cases as well as some countries starting to open up, scientists say that people are still experiencing what they call ‘Covid-19 anxiety syndrome’.

Symptoms of this syndrome are similar to those of other mental health conditions, including anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). 

These conditions can emerge in people as a result of a disastrous or traumatic experience. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies classify a disaster as “a sudden, catastrophic event that severely disrupts the functioning of a community or society, causing human, material, economic, or environmental losses.”

People with pre-existing mental health conditions, women, children, and older adults are most at risk.

To better understand the consequences of this particular pandemic, scientists identified a new group of anxiety-related symptoms and behaviours associated with the Covid-19. The chart above illustrates the symptoms of Covid anxiety.

This syndrome manifests the feeling of not wanting to leave the house because of virus fears, frequent checking for symptoms even if not showing any, and avoiding social situations or people in general.

Coping with Covid-19 anxiety syndrome

While there may be no escaping from everything that’s going on in the outside world, there are ways to cope with feelings of Covid-19 anxiety syndrome while staying indoors:

Seeking out positive messages around improvements in the pandemic situation, the vaccine rollout, and how the risk of death from the disease appears to be lessening due to new treatment options, could be some ways to start.

  • Take things slow even if/when there is pressure to return to normalcy.
  • Explain feelings of anxiety to a trusted person or expert. This allows others to provide the support we need. If movements are restricted, keep in regular contact with people close to you digitally or over the phone.
  • Be mindful of social media and news reports that may trigger anxiety. Consider limiting exposure to media to once a day.
  •  Be aware of how much time you spend in front of a screen every day. Make sure that you take regular breaks from on-screen activities.
  • Keep up with daily routines as far as possible, or make new ones. Exercise, healthy meals and regular times, personal hygiene and making time to do the things you enjoy is essential.

Owliver’s Obscure Observations

A recent survey done by researchers at Edith Cowan University in Perth, Western Australia, found that more than half (54%) of the survey’s 1,008 participants across the US, Europe, and Australia rated their mental health as ‘fair’ or ‘poor’. Nearly half (44%) reported that their mental health had declined since the onset of the pandemic, with women (48%) and millennials (45%) most likely to report negative mental health effects.

10 Owliver-verified mental health resources in India:


One of India’s most sought-after institutions for mental health and education, NIMHANS, Bengaluru, is offering free psychosocial support and mental health services to people experiencing stress, anxiety, fear or any kind of emotional discomfort during the pandemic.

Call: 080-46110007

Visit: Nimhans.ac.in/pssmhs-helpline

Therapize India

Therapize India has launched low-cost Covid Support Circles for people dealing with grief, burnout and anxiety. You get access to four sessions for Rs 250.

Visit: Therapizeindia.com/copy-of-therapize-tribes

Mpower 1 on 1

In collaboration with the Maharashtra Government, Mpower has launched a toll-free mental health support helpline at the onset of the pandemic in 2020.

Call: 1800-1208-20050

Visit: Mpowerminds.com/oneonone


This organisation based in Chennai offers emotional support to anyone feeling distressed. The experts at the centre are also providing support through email.

Call: 044-24640050, 044-24640060

Visit: Snehaindia.org/new

Fortis Stress Helpline

Launched in 2016 for students and parents dealing with exam stress, the Fortis Stress Helpline offers mental health support in over 15 languages.

Call: 08376804102


If you need to let out your feelings but are hesitant to talk to a friend or counsellor on a one-on-one basis, this platform allows you to share your experiences anonymously with compassionate strangers.

Visit: Nowandme.com

Mastermind Foundation

If you’re experiencing disturbed sleeping patterns, panic attacks, depressive episodes or any other emotional challenges, Mastermind Foundation offers over 60 psychologists to help you. Their services can be availed in 11 languages.

Visit: Mastermindfoundation.com

Parivarthan Counselling Helpline

Operated by 15 trained, certified and multi-lingual counsellors, the Parivarthan Counselling Helpline caters to all age groups and provides immediate support during an emergency.

Call: 07676602602

Visit: Parivarthan.org/counselling-helpline

SAHAI Helpline

Bengaluru-based SAHAI offers aid to children, young adults and adults going through emotional distress.

Call: 080-25497777, 09886444075


Promoting mental wellbeing among children and adolescents since 1994, the NGO understands how the pandemic can impact the mind of a child. The organisation has extended support during this time through free telephonic consultations.

Call: 09582208181

Visit: Snehi.org/covid-19

Sources: ANI, Medical News Today, India Today, Indian Express

Images: Paper Plane Doodles, Psychiatry Times, iStock