Kerala

Lending a patient ear to keep their spirits up

Psychosocial intervention to address mental health issues of people in quarantine

Every day since February 3, Remya Raj has at least one person shouting at her over the phone. As she calmly tries to reason with the person on the other end, they often hang up on her. But she is not disheartened, as they almost always call back sooner than later requesting help.

Ms. Raj, a psychiatric social worker in Kozhikode, is among 679 counsellors trying to perk up the sagging spirits of COVID-19 suspected people in quarantine and those under treatment in isolation wards across the State.

56,243 sessions

They held 56,243 tele-counselling sessions till evening on Friday.

Psychosocial intervention to address the mental health issues of such people is one of 18 critical areas identified by the State and monitored from the State control room. Its importance gauged well during the Ockhi cyclone and the recent floods, 200 counsellors have been assigned to talk to quarantined people in the initial days of the COVID-19 threat. But the number has grown exponentially since.

“Social isolation and stigma associated with the pandemic troubled many in the initial days, but that has now given way to anxiety, as they get to hear about the situation in Italy, the U.K. and the like,” says P.S. Kiran, State nodal officer (mental health programme).

Counsellors are located across the State and each team comprising a psychiatrist, clinical psychologist, psychiatric social worker and a regular social worker functioning under the District Mental Health Programme starts making calls every morning.

With the number of people in quarantine growing to a staggering 1.1 lakh, more counsellors are being drafted into the mission daily. “We have also added counsellors from the National Health Mission and the Women and Child Development Department,” says Dr. Kiran.

Under stress

“People in quarantine are often sleep-deprived, frustrated and under stress. If that’s left unattended, they just go into depression or a flare-up. So we give them a helpline number too, on which they can seek reach out to us. Each district has a dedicated helpline for this. And, in certain cases, we advise treatment. Medicines prescribed for them are home-delivered by ASHA palliative care workers or other health workers,” says Ms. Raj.

Of late, with the closure of liquor outlets, some of them are showing alcohol withdrawal symptoms and that is also being addressed. For instance, 45 inmates of the Social Justice Department’s destitute home in Kozhikode have been given counselling and treatment for withdrawal issues.

Several counsellors continue to work from their respective district office while many work from home as well, calling quarantined people from the list issued to them.

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Printable version | Jun 2, 2020 9:33:11 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/lending-a-patient-ear-to-keep-their-spirits-up/article31187067.ece

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