A general feeling of sadness, sleep disturbance, stress, and anxiety top the list of mental health concerns that prompted Indians to call the government-run national tele-mental health programme, Tele MANAS, the digital arm of the District Mental Health Programme launched in October 2022. The service, aimed at strengthening mental health service delivery in the country, on Saturday “reached a milestone of having received over 2,00,000 calls from various parts of the nation since the launch of this toll-free service,’’ the Union Health Ministry said.
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The Ministry added that with 42 operational Tele MANAS cells in 31 States and Union Territories, the service is currently catering to over 1,300 calls per day in 20 languages. Over 1,900 counsellors have been trained to run the first line service.
Additionally, around 7,000 calls have been followed up with call-backs from counsellors, where they succeeded in completing the loop of care. Callers requiring specialist care are linked to appropriate services and nearby healthcare facilities.
“A spurt in calls related to exam stress was seen during the exam season. These callers were helped by counsellors with supportive counselling, and self-help strategies. Efforts are also made to reach more students/adolescents in various educational institutes,’’ a Ministry official explained.
The official added that two-thirds of the callers fall in the 18-45 years age group. “There are a few prank calls also,’’ he said.
“Of the two lakh calls, 59.6% were male callers, and 40% were female callers,” Pratima Murthy, Director, National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS), said. “Nearly 75% of the callers were between 18-45 years of age; 12.5% of the callers were in the 46-64 years age group; and 8% were below 18 years of age.”
Dr. Murthy added that 28.8% calls were related to general feelings of sadness; 27.6% of the calls pertained to sleep-related problems; 20.4% calls concerned anxiety; 10% of the calls were about relationship issues; 9.2% of the calls pertained to aggression; and 9.7% callers spoke of low interest in activities.
The Tele MANAS service is being promoted via different media platforms, including print media, radio, and social media. The service provides assistance via basic counselling and mental health services, and linkages to existing vital services and resources. With Tele MANAS received two lakh calls in nine months, the longer term aim is to build a comprehensive digital mental health network across India, and reaching the unreached, the Health Ministry said.
The initiative, which was announced by the Health Ministry in the 2022-23 Union Budget, acknowledges mental health issues, and is a novel initiative in providing support while maintaining the anonymity of the callers, thereby reducing the stigma generally surrounding mental health issues.
“We want to make mental health services available free of cost to every household and every individual, targeting the most vulnerable and unreached sections of society that may otherwise have gone unnoticed,’’ the official said.
The toll-free helpline numbers — 14416 or 1-800-891-4416 — allows callers to select the language of their choice for availing the service.