The coronavirus pandemic has had a deep impact on mental health services in India. To help those suffering from stress or mental health issues, UNDP in collaboration with the Tata Isntitute of Social Sciences has launched a special counselling service “iCALL".
Available in 13 Indian states, the the service is an attempt to foster technology-assisted psycho-social tools that can be use dto meet the counselling and mental health needs of vulnerable populations.
While mental health services are at a premium in India, the pandemic has deepened the crisis, especially for women from marginalised communities. The pandmeic and ensuing lockdown have caused a further gap between those seeking help and those providing it. The telephonic service “iCall" is thus meant to bridge the gap between services and those in need by providing an accessible and affordible platform for quality counselling services that are just a phone call away.
The service is meant to help not just those in need of support but also frontline health wokers prodviding the support.
“Medical workers who are day in and out fighting the crisis, are at the same time facing stigmatization
from the society, even though they are the people who are trying to help," Shingo Miyamoto of Japan Embassy who launched the service along with TISS Mumbai’s Prof. Surinder Jaswal, said.
“Through this facility, we can help people who are in vulnerable situations including our frontline workers, elderly, women, and other marginalized groups access information related to mental health and psychosocial support".
According to Professor Jaswal, the coronavirus pandemic may, in fact, end up befetining mental health services in the long run.
“Emotional impact of COVID-19 doesn’t exist in isolation but is nested in everyday life. COVID-19 has given an opportunity to move mental health care to psychosocial support by adopting the human rights framework while addressing the biggest need of inequities of basic needs and appropriate information.," Jaswal said. “This service will be a great milestone in addressing these unmet needs,” he added.
Not just mental health, the service will help provide vulnerable persons with other social security schemes and also help them with finding employment.
“The iCALL helpline can identify the caller’s location or state and can guide them towards appropriate
help as well as link them to social protection schemes," Shoko Noda, Resident Representative, UNDP India said at the launch of the helpline.