Sukh-Dukh, a helpline by Pallium India, provides counselling in eight Indian languages

The Kerala-based NGO provides grief counselling for those who have lost a family member due to COVID-19 through the helpline

May 10, 2021 05:23 pm | Updated May 11, 2021 06:27 pm IST - Thiruvananthapuram

Sukh-Dukh helpline started by Pallium India does grief counselling in eight languages

Sukh-Dukh helpline started by Pallium India does grief counselling in eight languages

The calls for help from all over India are from those trying to come to terms with the loss of a family member due to COVID-19. And Pallium India, a non-Governmental organisation headquartered in Thiruvananthapuram, is helping them overcome the numbing grief with the help of Sukh-Dukh, a helpline that provides counselling in eight Indian languages.

“What we are seeing now is a kind of pathological grief as a result of the sudden passing away of a loved one. There are three reasons for this. The demise of anyone close to us causes grief. Most of us gradually, with time, accept it and move forward. However, when the death is sudden, like in an accident, the survivors might take a longer time to accept the loss. The pandemic has resulted in many such deaths and caused certain people to go into pathological grief,” explains Dr MR Rajagopal, founder and chairman of Pallium India.

Another reason for the spiralling grief is the inability to conduct any funeral rituals for the deceased as COVID-19 protocol proscribes any contact with the body. “Often, these rituals bring a kind of closure and emotional and psychological relief for the bereaved. The lack of such gestures can aggravate the grief, which can sometimes lead to clinical depression,” says Dr Rajagopal.

Thirdly, as a result of the need for social distancing, the bereaved are often left without the support of relatives or friends. “Usually, in India, relatives and neighbours come to the help of bereaved families. Sharing of memories about the deceased person, conversations and the presence of relatives provide a healing touch. Since all that is missing now, family members are forced to cope with their loss on their own,” elaborates Dr Rajagopal.

Sukh-Dukh helpline started by Pallium India does grief counselling in eight languages

Sukh-Dukh helpline started by Pallium India does grief counselling in eight languages

Recognising the need to provide help for the bereaved, Pallium India set up a helpline Sukh-Duk. Started in October 2020, soon after the first wave of COVID-19, Sukh-Dukh is more sought after the second wave as that has proved to be devastating in terms of human loss. While some Governments and institutions are providing psychological support to those hospitalised or quarantined, the pressure on support systems have often seen the bereaved left on their own.

Counselling is offered in Assamese, Bengali, English, Hindi, Malayalam, Kannada, Tamil and Telugu. The calls are taken by a trained psychologist in Thiruvananthapuram who acts as the facilitator and the caller or person in need is put in touch with a counsellor in different places in India. “We have trained and experienced counsellors in Mumbai, Delhi, Guwahati, Thiruvananthapuram and Kolkata. Both men and women in all age groups have requested for counselling. In a few instances, we had children calling in for help,” says Lekshmi Premchand, the facilitator.

She says the calls often come from relatives seeking counselling on behalf of a person who might be in shock or sinking into depression.“Often the person concerned might be so overcome with shock and emotional trauma that he/she may not even take the initiative to seek help. Then family members, caregivers or friends must make that move to put them in touch with qualified counsellors who can provide a healing touch,” says Dr Rajagopal.

Those suffering the trauma are unseen and unheard. Dr Rajagopal calls it an invisible problem.

What is causing concern for the physician and his team is that the helpline is not being used enough. Lekshmi says that the maximum number of calls they have received on a day is eight. “Many a time, the person undergoing the trauma of a loss may not even notice the existence of helplines or online counselling. So, it is imperative that someone else reaches out for them,” adds the physician.

Pallium India has collaborated with its partners such as Caregiver Saathi, MIND India and Edjacklegs for this helpline.

As the surge increases the number of deaths in India, Pallium India hopes to increase the number of volunteers and make the helpline 24x7. At present, it functions from 9.30 am to 6.30 pm. There is no payment and all the counsellors are doing it as a voluntary work.

Contact 7594052605 or

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