BMC begins online counseling to COVID patients for stress relief

Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has started online counselling sessions for the COVID-19 patients who are suffering from mental stress due to the pandemic at NESCO COVID Centre. For the counseling, the civic body had distributed 50 smartphones last month. The civic officials said they prepared a list of patients suffering from mental stress and it has been submitted to the counsellors following which they are undergoing the counseling session two to three hours daily.

Dr Neelam Andhrade, in-charge of NESCO COVID Centre, said since pandemic started many coronavirus patients are suffering from mental strain following which the civic body had decided to provide smartphones at the centre so that they can talk to their family members and reduce some stress. But they have learnt many of them are still under mental stress due to which they have started online counselling at the centres through smartphones.

“Mental stress has taken a toll on COVID-19 patients due to which since last week we have started online counselling with the help of volunteer counsellors or psychiatrists. We have tied up with the Prafulta-Centres for Psychological Wellness who counselled coronavirus patients daily for 2-3 hours. We have submitted the list of the patients to these counsellors who provide a different time slots for the session,” said Dr Andhrade. Moreover, each patient is counselled for 45 minutes and they have also provided smartphones to patients in ICU so that they can talk to their family members to overcome stress.

City-based psychiatrists have welcomed the move as it might help improve the mental health condition of the coronavirus patients. "Patients irrespective of their age or gender get scared when they test positive for COVID-19. In such a situation, when they stay alone for days, it leads to depression and anxiety. Many patients experience the same stress even after they get discharged. But if they talk to their family daily, it might contribute to their faster recovery," said Dr Harish Shetty, a psychiatrist.

Some private-hospitals have also roped in their psychiatrists and counsellors to reduce anxiety levels among patients. The treatment involved to contain the virus is full of uncertainty and needs to follow with social/physical distancing, cut off from the family and mandatory isolation which increases the risk of anxiety amongst patients, he said. “Our team of doctors provides mental and emotional support to them at every step during the treatment,” said Dr Shetty.

“If needed, our psychiatrists also come on board to talk to the patients through our tele-consulting services. We follow the counselling procedure which is conducted by psychologists within the first 24 hours the patient is admitted and repeat it every 3 days till the patient is discharged,” said a doctor treating COVID-19 patients at private hospitals.

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