The city-based National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro-Sciences (NIMHANS), through its COVID-19 helpline, has so far provided counselling on mental health and psychosocial issues related to the pandemic to 16,000 callers and their family members across 21 States and Union Territories in collaboration with the local administrations.
Also, NIMHANS and the State government have provided mental health consultation to over 52,000 people in the State after Karnataka recorded its first COVID-19 positive case six weeks ago.
These details were given to a special Division Bench comprising Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice B.V. Nagarathna during the hearing on PIL petitions, related to issues cropped up owing to lockdown, through videoconferencing.
Naveen Kumar of NIMHANS, who was requested by the court to provide details on how mental health issues related to COVID-19 and lockdown were being addressed, told the Bench that 300 workers spread over 21 States and UTs are managing the calls through a cloud-based interactive voice recording system of NIMHANS and are counselling the needy.
Counselling is being provided in the categories of children and adolescents, general adults, elderly people, and on domestic violence issues, the Bench was told. The counselling is also provided on substance withdrawal symptoms. It was also pointed out to the Bench on behalf of NIMHANS that the facility of extensive counselling is being provided to a large number of migrants, and counselling has been given to 21,000 migrant workers in Karnataka.
National action plan
Dr. Naveen Kumar also said that NIMHANS has prepared a national action plan on addressing acute mental health and psychosocial issues related to COVID-19 and post-pandamic issues, and the Union government is likely to announce the action plan shortly.
Meanwhile, counsel for the People’s Union for Civil Liberties has emphasised the need to provide mental health counselling in 111 containment zones across the State.
While appreciating the service rendered by NIMHANS in the present situation, the Bench asked the State government to give adequate publicity to the various facilities extended by NIMHANS on COVID-19 related issues so that a large number of citizens can benefit.