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Over the phone, free of cost: Over 100 counsellors to help deal with anxiety, panic, fear during pandemic

"The coronavirus outbreak has led to lot of panic among citizens, including fear of contracting the disease. The lockdown has also affected the mental status of citizens... the issue needs immediate attention," said Prerna Deshbhratar, Commissioner for Persons with Disablities department.

Written by Ajay Jadhav | Pune | Published: April 3, 2020 1:38:45 am
Over the phone, free of cost: Over 100 counsellors to help deal with anxiety, panic, fear during pandemic The counsellors have to be affiliated to the Indian Psychiatric Society, or the state chapter of Indian Psychological Association, or the All India Psychological Associatoon. (Representational Image)

A private counsellor recently got a call from a woman in Nagpur, who said she was very scared as the “world was going to end and everyone was going to die in the pandemic”. Psychologists and counsellors have geeting numerous such calls from worried, and sometimes panicky, people during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

To deal with the increasing number of such cases. a group of professional counsellors from across Maharashtra has come forward to cater to those suffering from mental problems, and they are offering their counselling services for free. These counsellors can communicate in Marathi, Hindi and English, among other languages, and will reach out to those in need to help via the phone.

“The coronavirus outbreak has led to lot of panic among citizens, including fear of contracting the disease. The lockdown has also affected the mental status of citizens… the issue needs immediate attention,” said Prerna Deshbhratar, Commissioner for Persons with Disablities department.

“The mobility of citizens is restricted during the lockdown period. Teenagers, senior citizens and physically unfit people are not able to cope with the stress, leading to changes in their behaviour. The private professionals enlisted by the state government will offer free counselling to anyone on the phone,” said Deshbhratar.

The department has apprised district administrations about the availability of these counsellors. “We have also taken to Facebook and Twitter with an appeal to citizens to use free counselling. More volunteers are invited to join the initiative,” said Deshbhratar.

The counsellors have to be affiliated to the Indian Psychiatric Society, or the state chapter of Indian Psychological Association, or the All India Psychological Associatoon.

Chetan Dewan, secretary of the Maharashtra State Mental Health Public Awareness Committee, said the initiative had 130 volunteers, including professional counsellors, psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers. “People are suffering from anxiety, stress, phobia of staying at home for a long time, restlessness and emotional disturbances due to the outbreak,” he said.

“Currently, most of the experts are from Mumbai and Pune. Deliberate efforts are being made to get them involved in the initiative, as several coronavirus infections have been reported from these cities,” he said.

The counsellors are also ready to extend their services to hospitals, whose staff are under a lot of pressure, and to deal with the issues arising in housing societies where coronavirus cases have been diagnosed.

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