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Thursday, February 25, 2021

Pune: Most calls on helplines related to vaccine anxiety, unemployment, exam-related stress

The Sassoon General Hospital and 104 Health Advice Call Centre, apart from Connecting NGO that works towards preventing suicides, said there was a spike in the number of calls pertaining to Covid-19 vaccination, its side effects and exam-related stress.

Written by Anuradha Mascarenhas | Pune |
Updated: February 22, 2021 11:39:24 pm
Suicide helpline prevention Pune vaccine anxietyNiraja Banker, a senior manager (operations) at the state-run 104 Health Advice Call Centre, said on average they were getting 3,000 calls per day. (Photo/Pixabay)

With the rise in Covid-19 cases, stress and anxiety are clearly at play, especially among students preparing for class X and XII exams, say experts.

The Sassoon General Hospital and 104 Health Advice Call Centre, apart from Connecting NGO that works towards preventing suicides, said there was a spike in the number of calls pertaining to Covid-19 vaccination, its side effects and exam-related stress.

In December last year, the Sassoon General Hospital’s ManaSamvaad mental health helpline (020-26127331) received only 56, while the numbers shot down to 23 till January 20. However, since the vaccination was introduced, the number of calls, officials said, had picked up.

“Between January 20 and February 20, we have recorded 123 calls with a majority pertaining to vaccination and its side effects. Now, with the rise in Covid-19 cases and an announcement on closure of schools and colleges till February end, we are also getting several anxiety-related calls,” Dr Niteen Abhivant, professor and head of the department of psychiatry at B J Medical College and Sassoon General Hospital said.

“Initially, healthcare workers and nurses called us daily related to the Covid-19 vaccine, but at our out-patient department, too, we have now noted a rise in the number of patients. From the 100-120 patients daily, the number has increased to 170- 180 patients. Most of the patients suffer from anxiety and depression due to unemployment and several are from rural areas of Pune and Solapur. We also are counselling parents and children who are stressed about examinations, especially online-based tests. We often tell parents that they need to accept the reality of the Covid-19 pandemic and help their ward study well,” Dr Abhivant said.

Niraja Banker, a senior manager (operations) at the state-run 104 Health Advice Call Centre, said on average they were getting 3,000 calls per day.

“Sixty per cent calls pertain to Covid-19 and the other 70 per cent are for quarantine guidelines for travel. Twenty per cent are regarding vaccine and three per cent for adverse events related to vaccination. Of the total calls about 27 per cent are for other health advises blood unit requests and mental health concerns. For mental health, 33 per cent are related to anxiety and stress.”

Liyaan Sataravala, CEO, Connecting Trust’s Distress Helpline told The Indian Express that from November last year till January they had received 226 calls. “The duration of each call lasted for 30 minutes and the top three reasons for the distress calls were related to relationship issues, unemployment and mental health conditions,” Sataravala said.

She said the overall burnout and fatigue issues were due to the uncertainty related to the pandemic while simultaneously being confined to their homes/ lack of privacy.

Sataravala said their peer educators programme conducted a yearlong intensive online programme that allowed students to identify and deal with stress. Since June last year, they have oriented 920 students.

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