Lack of sleep, loneliness, general sadness, stress and anxiety were the major complaints that counsellors received at the toll-free mental health helpline 'Tele-MANAS' over the last three months. According to the data provided by the Directorate of Health Services, the helpline number '14416' has received over 5,457 calls between November 2022 and February 10, of which 465 were followed up with a subsequent call after a positive experience.
The number gets 60-70 calls on a daily average and sometimes more; the highest number in a single day was 120 in the week preceding New Year's Eve. A senior health official said the main aim of this helpline is to reach out to people who are suffering from mental health issues and are scared to speak about their problems with their families and friends.
Dr Swapnil Lale, Additional Director of the Mental Health Programme (Directorate Health Services), said at times there are also prank calls. “The counsellors handle all these calls and ensure the caller is counselled and if required, sent to the nearest centre for treatment,” he said.
“Awareness about mental health has increased, especially after Corona. Stress is also increasing by the day and currently, one in seven people has a mental health problem. However, 80% of these can be solved with counselling. Most complaints received so far haven't been serious,” he said, adding that the service has received a positive response.
When the counsellors face an emergency situation, they try to dissuade the caller from doing anything untoward and encourage them to visit the nearest government hospital where the doctors are also informed about the case details.
Monica Nikam – project coordinator at the Thane Tele-MANAS centre – said many callers are in the age group of 25-35 years or senior citizens above 50 years who need to be counselled. “On average, our counsellors who are active 24 / 7 get 35-40 calls per day. They provide adequate information and guidance to dissuade them from taking and untoward action. Most calls are related to sleep disorders, depression and anxiety. We have counsellors for each type of mental health illness,” she said.
According to Nikam, the centre also gets 5-10 suicidal calls on average. “We counsel and ask them to visit the nearest OPD centre for further treatment. Overthinking about future problems is part of another vicious cycle that is both the cause and effect of anxiety and depression among many people,” she said.
Mumbai (city) 163
Mumbai (suburbs) 14
As a part of the National Mental Health Programme, Tele-MANAS helpline centres are located at Pune, Thane and Ambajogai, with each centre having 20 counsellors manning telephone lines 24 / 7
Ten beds have been reserved for patients suffering from psychiatric diseases in every district hospital.
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