Tele Counselling can make 24/7 mental health assistance available, lower costs and increase public access, says Dr. Neerja Birla
Dr. Neerja Birla, Founder & Chairperson, Mpower I congratulate and applaud the Union Ministry of Health & Family Welfare on the launch of the national tele-counselling number under the tele-MANAS initiative. It is no secret that
Dr. Neerja Birla, Founder & Chairperson, Mpower
I congratulate and applaud the Union Ministry of Health & Family Welfare on the launch of the national tele-counselling number under the tele-MANAS initiative. It is no secret that India has a growing mental health crisis. Even before the pandemic hit us, reports stated that close to 150 million Indians need urgent mental healthcare support and fewer than 30 million people have access to professional help. To tackle such a massive crisis, we are in need of a multipronged approach that can help reach out to as many people as possible and help them with their mental health struggles. One of the best ways to create a country-wide outreach is to create access through toll-free helplines. Our past experience operating the 24×7 toll-free helpline by Mpower and BMC in Maharashtra, Mpower 1:1 Let’s Talk, 24×7 helpline has dealt with over 94,245 calls and our trained mental health professionals have helped countless people to access Mental health counselling when most needed. We are now well-positioned to fulfill our vision of scaling up the helpline’s operations so that we can reach out to all those who need our help and are open to collaborating with the government to support them in running the tele-counselling numbers as needed. I believe that together, we can make a difference in India’s mental health landscape.
It is no secret that India has a growing mental health crisis. Tell us about your thoughts on the launch of the National Tele Counselling initiative
People of all ages will benefit greatly from this initiative, which will increase the availability of professional mental health care. In the post-pandemic world that we are in today, such an initiative can bring about a much-needed change in society providing people with a platform to voice their concerns freely and safely.
Why is Tele Counselling the need of the hour? The importance of Tele Counselling
Having a healthy mind is just as important as having a healthy body, and everyone should have access to the tools they need to get there. People may find it challenging to keep face-to-face appointments as demand rises, so providing this option gives them some additional time flexibility.
The initiative of the Government of India is expected to help tens of thousands of people, as COVID-19 has had a negative impact on the mental health of the public as they adjust to physical, psychological, and economic changes since the beginning of the pandemic.Tele Counselling can also make traditional therapy more accessible to patients who are unable to participate due to barriers such as physical limitations, travel distance, or scheduling conflicts. Many patients are interested in such a service because it has the potential to lower treatment costs.
According to you, what is the best way to tackle and curb this massive mental health crisis
The importance of maintaining good mental health in every aspect of life cannot be overstated. One believes that interaction is the best way to learn. We must do everything that it takes to create awareness about mental health. In an ideal world, everyone struggling with a mental health issue will have the support they need to live a fulfilling life, and the stigma associated with such illnesses will be reduced. What we need to do is work toward encouraging help-seeking behaviour in people by giving them access to high-quality clinical services.
As you have already collaborated with the BMC in Maharashtra for the Mpower 1:1 Let’s Talk, 24×7 helpline, do you wish to further carry out this initiative across India? Tell us about your thoughts
In collaboration with the Government of Maharashtra, we are working in 40 Primary Health Centres, and looking to improve the health of over 2.5 million people. We are working towards capacity building and increasing the mental health literacy of the common man through the State Government’s District Mental Health Programme and helping the Asha Workers. Our main objective is to increase awareness and spread outreach to rural areas through various workshops, high-quality clinical services and other community engagement activities. Till September 2022, we have had 1483 psychiatric sessions and screened 18,543 patients. Mpower has been successfully hosting intensive training programmes and workshops with the help of all relevant parties. All of the PHCs are ensured access to high-quality clinical services provided by licenced psychiatrists, psychologists, and other medical professionals. Our success with the Mpower 1on1 helpline has encouraged us to pursue additional opportunities to collaborate with the government on similar initiatives. Extending the availability of the helpline is the next logical step. We hope to aid the Government of India in its goal of introducing Tele-Manas to the country. To ensure the success of the Tele-manas centre project, we have been in discussions with the government to establish a public-private partnership. This expansion would allow us to reach more people and offer them long-term support for their mental health on their journey’s final leg.