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Mental health helpline amidst COVID-19

Communication support, call center and customer service help desk. Using a telephone keypad. Mental health helpline concept.
Image credit: scyther5 / 123rf

A mental health helpline is being launched to support Indians during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Indians can avail a consultation by the helpline, which is reachable toll-free on 08046110007. Launched by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), based in Karnataka state capital Bengaluru, the mental health helpline will serve to address “mental and behavioural issues” during the lockdown according to joint secretary of the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare Lav Agarwal.

“It is too early to assess the impact of the lockdown,” Agarwal said. However, he did acknowledge that “we are under a lockdown and behavioural issues are very important under such situations. It is a new process.” As such, he said, “I request everyone to fight unitedly against this disease so if we see any mental health issues then all the institutes are equipped to provide you with necessary support.” 

Dr Pratima Murthy, who heads NIMHANS’ psychiatry department, said “the main thing is panic across all categories of people” owing to the anxiety engendered by the COVID-19 pandemic. Hans Kluge, the World Health Organization’s Regional Director for Europe, has said “isolation, physical distancing, the closure of schools and workplaces are challenges that affect us, and it is natural to feel stress, anxiety, fear and loneliness at this time.” 

The demand for mental health services has already started to manifest amidst the COVID-19 crisis. The Government Medical College and Hospital in Chandigarh has reported receiving almost fifty calls each day on their own mental health helpline. Those reaching out include those who were experiencing anxiety due to COVID-19 and individuals with pre-existing mental health conditions. 

The decision to impose a 21-day lockdown was made last week by Prime Minister Narendra Modi due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Ensuring that the mental health needs as well as the physical needs of citizens are tended to during the crisis is imperative. Providing consultations via a mental health helpline is one means of doing so and ensuring that the psychological issues of Indians are not neglected. 

Contact details for mental health support in India can be accessed here. 

If you are suicidal or experiencing suicidal thoughts, visit your nearest hospital or contact AASRA on 91-22-27546669 or Sneha India on 91 44 24640050 helpline. A list of other suicide helplines can be accessed here.

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