THE TELEMEDICINE and other helpline numbers are increasingly indicating a rise in stress among people with many worried about lack of resources, elderly complaining of loneliness and some even exhibiting suicidal behaviour.
There have been around 400 calls on Punjab’s telemedicine helpline 1800 in the past week and a majority required mental health counselling. The helpline Sunday received 26 calls requiring counselling and 14 for teleconsultation for other health concerns. Since April 3, the helpline has received nearly 2,x600 calls of different nature .
Many people, in panic because of the spread of coronavirus, have called on the helpline after experiencing even mild symptoms of cold, cough or fever. There have been five such calls, where counsellors have addressed suicidal behaviour, said officials.
Any of the total of 150 psychiatrists and counsellors doctors engaged for the 1800 helpline call back the patients, ask history, advise and then recommend further action. Punjab has around 2,200 doctors, mostly volunteers, for different health-related helplines, including the 104 helpline. “Two types of calls are received — those requiring general medical assistance, and counselling. Many are worried about what is happening. The complaints include stress, insomnia and even pertain to self harm,” said Vinesh Gautam, general manager (Tech) at the Department of Governance Reforms, Punjab.
The counsellors after talking to a caller decide whether the person can be helped only with guidance over phone or the case needs to be forwarded to authorities in their district for any further assistance, which can mitigate their worry. “There have been calls seeking medical help and even ration. Many elderly persons have called and complained of loneliness due to the lockdown. They feel restless at their homes as there is restriction on movement. There have been calls from students too,” said Dr Nidhi Singhi, a Ludhiana-based career counsellor.
However, the government helpline is not the only one attempting to address the emotional needs of people from a distance. Social Substance, a local group in Chandigarh, also has brought together a group of 30 professionals, including psychologists, for the purpose. The group, which has made their personal phone numbers public on social media, has received calls not only from Chandigarh but Punjab and Haryana as well.
“There have been many phone calls from people in distress. We have tried to address them. I received a call from a person showing suicidal tendency, a woman said she cannot cope with this much homework for children and another complained about feeling stuck inside her home,” said Arun Bansal, one of the volunteers, who works as programmer with Panjab University.
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