Mental Health Helpline
The recent COVID-19 outbreak has resulted in unprecedented challenges to all countries across the world. The difference in magnitude of infected cases and mortality reflects the capacity, preparedness and political commitment of different countries. The pandemic has also underlined the need for inter-sectoral coordination and collaboration among all key stakeholders (nationally and internationally) to combat this major public health challenge.
This pandemic and ensuing lock-down has touched the lives of all and is a major source of stress to the general public including the highly mobile youth who are confined in homes, the middle aged, the elderly, vulnerable women and children who are more at risk, the law enforcement personnel and last but not the least the Health care workers. Among frontline Healthcare and law enforcement Workers, the effects include a constant fear of contracting the infection as well as trauma from occasional confrontations with aggrieved/ frustrated patients. Long-term exposure to such mental trauma may result in triggering of psychological issues such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression, psychological distress, anxiety and the like. There is a risk of increase in domestic violence, women and children being more vulnerable and regular support systems not easily accessible. In such a scenario, there is a major unmet need to address the mental health needs of the society.
Mental Health Helpline in India
The MSF mental health hotline was set up in mid-June 2020, as a response to the COVID-19 crisis in India with the main focus on front line health care workers. Multilingual counsellors were identified and trained and a toll-free phone number established.
Initially, the helpline was proposed for three months but was extended until the end of the year 2020. After a broad consultation, it was decided to close it on 31st December 2020.
Mental Health Helpline in Nepal
In Nepal, MSF staff are running 24/7 mental health telephone hotline in Nepali. This helpline is an extension of the same service our teams were running in India.