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News18 » India
2-min read

Battling Mental Health Crisis Amid Coronavirus Lockdown: Tracing the Efforts of a Kolkata Team

A Kolkata-based non-profit organisation is giving counselling services to psychiatric patients and individuals as the nationwide lockdown is resulting in rising cases of stress disorders.

Sujit Nath | News18

Updated:March 26, 2020, 3:40 PM IST
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Filipino online tutor Raven Kate De Leon teaches an online class at the head office of 51Talk, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in Pasig City, Metro Manila, Philippines March 12, 2020. Picture taken March 12, 2020. REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez
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Kolkata: While going through medical journals and websites on information related to the coronavirus pandemic, Dr Baidyanath Ghosh Dastidar is left feeling unsettled in his Kolkata home after receiving a number of phone calls.

A caller confides to him saying that he wants to die as he fears the virus might kill him. Another caller said he has developed secondary traumatic stress reaction as he was an AIDS patient.

The incidents led Dr Dastidar, who is the founder of ‘Citizens Against Violence’ (CAV) and a Senior Clinical Fellow in the UK, to set up a Quick Response Team (QRT) to provide services to individuals suffering from mental health-related issues. The nationwide lockdown have caused acute depression, anxiety and fears among people leading the goodwill doctor to give physical and over-the-phone counselling services to patients in and around the city.

Speaking to News18, Dr Dastidar said, “I have received calls from people including those who have developed suicidal tendencies, bipolar disorder, AIDS patients, elderly, and parents of small children with various queries over fears caused by the outbreak.” He said the lockdown is worrying as lack of interaction with others makes people more vulnerable to stress disorder.

Speaking about the guidelines and precautionary measures provided by the World Health Organization (WHO), he said the response team was formed to reach out to people and supply them with medicines, masks and telephone counselling.

The QRT team also provides ambulance services for transporting elderly and homeless people to quarantine centres at Rajarhat and Beleghta ID hospital.

“Our tele-counselling services is running round the clock for secondary traumatic stress (STS) and acute stress disorder (ASD) patients due to the pandemic.” He further said he had personally counselled patients, doctors, caregivers, children, and individuals who have developed STS and ADS reactions, free of cost, after being quarantined.

“Every day, CAV receives more than 50 calls related to mental health issues due to home isolation. We also receive calls from existing psychiatric patients.”

While the nationwide lockdown is expected to continue till April 14, the organization has advised people to read the safety guidelines on COVID-19 provided by official sources. It has also urged people to avoid watching news channels or content on social media to avoid panic.

The CAV suggests parents have a conversation with their children about the virus and the required precautions instead of hiding the facts. For distressed women, Dr Dastidar said that they often use stories about empowerment as it helps boost their confidence and their overall outlook in overcoming the crisis.

The organization also provides door-to-door medical supplies to patients with severe psychiatric conditions as they are the most vulnerable due to home isolation.

The non-profit organisation is running a disaster distress helpline and can be contacted at 9830177145 and E-mail on truegood001@gmail.com.

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