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Tuesday, August 03, 2021

Second wave saw rise in distress calls at government and pvt helplines across state

Anxiety about long-lasting pandemic, stay at home order and other lockdown restrictions major issues for callers.

Written by Anuradha Mascarenhas | Pune |
Updated: July 20, 2021 8:20:26 am
Suicide Prevention Day, Covid pandemic, distress emails, Pune news, Indian express newsMost of the calls are related to unemployment-related stress, concern about children getting affected with Covid-19 and availability of vaccines. (Representational Image)

Distress calls during the second wave of the ongoing pandemic have averaged to nearly 5,000 per day at the state-run 104 Call Centre. At other helplines, run by Sassoon General Hospital and Connecting Trust, an NGO, there has been a rise in the number of such calls that are driven largely by anxiety and concerns over prolonged “stay at home” lifestyle and other lockdown-related restrictions.

There has been a large impact of the pandemic on both lifestyle and wellbeing, authorities at the 104 Call Centre said. The inflow of calls has increased from 2,000 to 6,000 daily since June this year. Sixty per cent of the calls are related to Covid-19 (98 per cent of these Covid calls are about vaccine information and registration and two per cent on the adverse effects of immunisation). The rest 40 per cent of the total calls are related to health advice, blood requirement and mental health among other such issues.

The 104 Call Centre at Pune’s Aundh General Hospital, a hybrid contact centre that provides a gamut of healthcare services, was renovated in May. It has been functioning for the past few years on public-private partnership. Health advice is given to callers on dialing the three-digit toll-free number from landline and mobile phone from anywhere in the state.

Maharashtra recently appointed Aditi Tracking Support Private Limited as the service provider for the call centre. Its director Chirag Rachh said: “We provide efficient healthcare services and reach out to those in the most interior parts of the country at critical times.” The centre has been upgraded to a 29-seater facility with doctors, counsellors, specialist physicians, operations manager, auxiliary nursing midwives and other key personnel working in three shifts.

At Sassoon General Hospital’s ManaSamvaad mental health helpline (020-26127331), authorities said due to the lon-lasting pandemic, people are getting into depression; they are waiting for something positive to happen.

Dr Niteen Abhivant, professor and head of psychiatry department at BJ Medical College and Sassoon General Hospital sai, “People lost their jobs and returned to their native places. We get calls from Beed, Kolhapur and other areas where economic hardship is acute. During the first wave, there were 15 calls a day, while the second wave saw an increase in number of calls with an average of 25 daily. The maximum number of calls is related to unemployment, stress, concern about children getting infected and availability of vaccines.”

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An advisory from the World Health Organization has also urged people who are faced with the new realities of working from home, temporary unemployment, home schooling of children and lack of physical contact with other family members, friends and colleagues to take care of both physical and mental health.

Authorities at Connecting Trust, an NGO that offers a non-judgemental listening service for those who are feeling low, distressed and suicidal via their helpline numbers 9922004305/9922001122 and emails at, also found that pretty much every second call was related to anxiety around Covid-19, either dealing with the loss of a loved one, anxiety about exams and results and concern over jobs.

“The quality of calls has changed and it could be from new callers or old ones but it revolves around the pandemic. The areas of concern are also on strained relationships within families,” said Vikramsinh Pawar, recruitment and training in-charge at the NGO.

“The number of emails has gone up and we receive seven to eight fresh mails daily. Our reach has widened to south and northeast India. The distress email facility and helpline numbers received 1,036 calls and 276 mails between March and June this year. The number of long calls where people are sharing their stress and anxiety concerns and emotional pain has gone up. In June 2020, there were 119 long calls, while in June this year, there were 193 long calls that lasted for two to three hours,” Pawar added.

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