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Centre launches 24/7 toll-free mental health helpline

Help a call away:Minister Thaawarchand Gehlot launches the mental health rehabilitation helpline in New Delhi.PTIPTI  

The Union Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry on Monday launched a 24/7 toll-free helpline to provide support to people facing anxiety, stress, depression, suicidal thoughts and other mental health concerns.

The mental health rehabilitation helpline, KIRAN, can be called from landline and mobile phones across the country at the number 1800-599-0019, the Ministry announced.

In a statement, the Ministry said the helpline had been launched “in view of the growing incidence of mental illness, particularly in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Shortage of professionals

Speaking during the online launch event, Joint Secretary Prabodh Seth said there was a shortage of qualified mental health professionals while 10.6% of adults and 7.3% of adolescents faced mental illness, according to a NIMHANS survey in 2015-2016. He said the helpline operators had been sensitised not to ask the caller for name or any identification details.

The helpline would function as the first step for callers to get advice, counselling and referral to psychologists and psychiatrists, the statement said. The helpline will be available in 13 languages and has 660 clinical/rehabilitation psychologists and 668 psychiatrists as volunteers.

While the helpline was formally launched by Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Thaawarchand Gehlot on Monday, testing has been on since last month.

Speaking during the virtual launch, Dr. Amrita Sahay of the National Institute for the Empowerment of Persons with Intellectual Disabilities (NIEPED) said the helpline was already receiving calls from school and college students anxious due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She said some of the students were showing symptoms of depression and reported not being able to sleep.

Dr. Mita Singhal of the Pt. Deendayal Upadhyaya National Institute for Persons with Physical Disabilities said persons with disabilities had reached out to the helpline due to anxiety linked to the pandemic situation. She said the helpline was connecting them with psychologists as well as advising them to do breathing exercises, among other tips.

There is a shortage of qualified mental health professionals, while 10.6% of adults and 7.3% of adolescents faced mental illness

Prabodh Seth

Joint Secretary