Counselling must to prevent suicides, expedite recovery, says expert

Dr. C. Ramasubramanian

Dr. C. Ramasubramanian   | Photo Credit: G_Moorthy

A majority of people infected with COVID-19 have developed psychological symptoms due to the sudden diagnosis, abrupt changes in routine life, absence of meaningful communication and hostile isolated environment resulting in lack of confidence to fight the disease, renowned psychiatrist Dr. C. Ramasubramanian has said.

He said mental healthcare for patients played a crucial role not only in instilling confidence among patients that they could easily recover from the infection, but also to ward off suicidal tendencies in the pandemic scenario. Psychological intervention by way of professional counselling should not only be for infected patients but also for the community to create awareness about the pandemic and its implications.

Sleep disturbance

Quoting recent studies, Dr. Ramasubramanian, the nodal officer for police well-being programme, said that there was a steep rise in the suicide rate and 44% of people were suffering from sleep disturbances, irrespective of their age, gender and financial status.

“People should be educated about coronavirus and the prognosis. The lack of understanding has created some kind of panic in the community. This has also resulted in mounting aggression, which in many cases gets manifested in the form of anger towards the treating doctors/paramedical staff. Some of them (positive patients) are hostile towards the medical fraternity because of lack of knowledge about the COVID-19 pandemic and also with treatment modality,” he said.

An attempt was made in the Government Rajaji Hospital, Madurai, where psychological first aid services/counselling to patients infected with coronavirus were provided by professionals of M.S. Chellamuthu Trust and Research Foundation.

Completely curable

“Initially the patients were apprehensive, angry reluctant to undergo treatment since their understanding of the disease was limited to media reports that mostly highlighted deaths or life-threatening conditions among the infected people. However, we were able to create awareness that the condition was completely curable by early and effective medical intervention. The patients, who took counselling which included a short session on stress management, showed a positive attitude and recovered well,” he said. Dr. Ramasubramanian said some patients who slipped into symptoms of depression had to be given anti-anxiolytic and anti-depressant drugs.

About 93 patients of all age groups were benefited by the counselling, which was a part of the comprehensive treatment protocol for COVID-19 cases, he said.

“We provided follow-up counselling sessions after they got discharged from the hospital and advised home quarantine. The family members are also benefiting through follow-up counselling sessions,” he said, adding that the Trust provided tele-counselling for 102 police personnel, including 23 women police constables, who tested positive to coronavirus.

Dr. Ramasubramanian said about 1,000 student of Madurai Kamaraj University colleges were trained as ‘Mental Health First Aid Volunteers’ jointly by the Trust and the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences. (NIMHANS). They were trained to give counselling in a simple language to all their contacts in the village on the dos and don’ts to stay safe.

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Printable version | Aug 11, 2020 7:58:11 PM |

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