The Assam government has started a mental health support programme for Covid patients and quarantined persons in the state to provide emotional support, counselling and treatment. The programme, called ‘Monon’, was started on June 17. The team behind it comprises 220 psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, psychiatric social workers, and trained voluntary counsellors. It is led by Dr Mythili Hazarika, an Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology at Gauhati Medical College and Hospital.
In the first six days, the ‘Monon’ team made a total of 2,543 calls to under-treatment Covid patients or those who have recovered. Out of this, 1,212 persons needed counselling. According to official figures, out of the 1,200-odd people who needed counselling, 94 were found to be depressed, 139 with symptoms of clinical anxiety and at least nine people suffered suicidal tendencies. But of the diagnosed people, 43 had psychiatric symptoms before the outbreak of the Covid pandemic. Health officials say that further treatment and rehabilitation programmes will be worked out based on the assessments by the ‘Monon’ team.
“This is a unique kind of a programme, where the mental health professionals are calling those who might need help rather than just waiting for them to call us,” Hazarika told The Indian Express. She added that each person on the team is allotted to call at least 15 Covid patients per day.
When asked about the primary reasons behind mental health issues that have been found through the programme, Hazarika told The Indian Express, “Stress over job prospects and financial issues of the family; anxiety caused by a sense of uncertainty about the near future due to Covid; and for migrant workers, whether they can go back to where they have come back from.”
Samir Sinha, Principal Secretary, Health and Family Welfare Department, told The Indian Express, “These are critical times. A large number of people, from different walks of life, are seeking emotional support and counselling. This programme is our endeavour towards providing people that.”
He added that right from the time the programme was conceptualised, it was stressed that the team should be reaching out to people. “Unless we reach out, we will never be able to provide the necessary mental health support to a vast majority, which will otherwise remain silent about their suffering,” Sinha said.
Apart from the calls being made by team ‘Monon’, there are scores of people calling the government of Assam’s 104 helpline from quarantine centres seeking help through the new initiative. Officials plan more promotion of the helpline in quarantine centres.
As of Wednesday, Assam has reported over 6,000 Covid patients, of which over 2,200 are active cases. The numbers have increased sharply in recent weeks, and there are fears of community-level transmission in Guwahati, with large parts of the city under lockdown.