Published: 10th April 2020
Here's how this therapists' collective is providing free counselling online to help people deal with the COVID-19 crisis
Crisis counselling involves providing support and guidance to an individual or a group of people such as a family or a community during a crisis like the ongoing Coronavirus outbreak
"People don't always need advice. Sometimes all they need is an ear to listen and a heart to understand."
This is the motto of COVID Response, a non-profit well-being initiative bridged together by three impact-first mental health organisations: Mind Piper (mindpiper.in), Aatma Prakash (aatmaprakash.com), and I AM (iamwellbeing.in). As the country finds itself in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the core objective of this initiative is to extend and ensure effective and timely mental and emotional health support to people in need. The initiative is run by a team of psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, mental health professionals and organisations who are ready to offer pro-bono specialised crisis counselling over a video or a phone call.
The initiative includes professionals from cities across the country who have come forward to help people in need. "The idea behind COVID Response is that there should be a response to the Coronavirus disease from a mental health aspect. We are facing a very different kind of situation right now, the attention of our government or politicians is more on providing livelihood, ration and money to the people in need, the economy is their priority. That is necessary, however, not a lot of people are really talking about mental health problems. We are kind of overlooking the fact that a lot of people are facing the feeling of uncertainty in terms of jobs, education and other aspects. During such phases, there are several triggers that can lead to people experiencing anxiety and stress. If not addressed, it can snowball into a complicated mental health issue stemming from an inability to manage a crisis. So, we are taking a preventive approach and trying to reach out to people online and over the phone to help them deal with this crisis," says Aakritee Kapoor, a mental health professional and one of the partners of this initiative.
Crisis counselling involves providing support and guidance to an individual or a group of people such as a family or a community during a crisis. It is a form of intervention that aims to provide immediate psycho-social support to individuals who are undergoing any form of an emergency situation that may pose a threat or danger to their functionality or well-being, explains Aakritee. The initiative is specifically reaching out to certain groups of people whose fear and anxiety need to be addressed at this time of distress. "We are looking at people who are under quarantine, whether it is self-imposed or government-enforced. Those who are based abroad and worried about what's happening here as their parents are here, in this country. Some people are worried about their pets and there are the ones worried about their economic situation, their jobs, their education and stability," adds Aakritee.
COVID Response' helpline number was launched on April 7 with the help of Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR), who have recognised this initiative. They already began their online counselling sessions on March 24 and have conducted 80 odd sessions since then. "The online method was limited to a handful of people as not everyone has access to computers or the internet, so we wanted to reach out to a larger crowd and thus, launched our helpline number. We are also providing training to junior professionals for them to come on board and help us conduct more sessions. We have already trained 60 professionals to date and given them slots from 10 am to 7 pm for people dealing with the crisis," says Aakritee.
Aakritee informs that from all their counselling sessions, they have determined that certain groups of people need more support than others. "It is important to address the level of anxiety and fear in people who have come back from the lockdown. They are worried about what will happen after they come back and their family members are equally anxious. Similarly, elderly citizens who are more susceptible to this disease are concerned about their need for access to medicine, ration, technology, which is not as much as youngsters. So their fear and anxiety are higher. They need someone to talk to and we address that in order to help them figure out solutions," she explains.
Aakritee also adds that children and youngsters are at a higher risk of developing a mental health problem and that they have received a significant number of calls from them. "Children who have their exams are worried about what will happen next. What do their futures hold for them? Young professionals are equally anxious and have a fear of losing jobs, losing their hike and other job security concerns. Medical professionals who are supporting others don't have time for their families, they are dealing with overtime workload, unreasonable time schedules and need people like us to address these concerns," she says.
The COVID Response team is trying to provide more regular sessions, says Aakritee. For which, they are reaching out to hospitals, NGOs, companies, professionals, schools and colleges to provide support to a larger number of people in distress. "We received technical support from Indus Action, who helped us set up the helpline number along with DCPCR. We are also planning to start some sort of donation or fundraising campaign as we need some more support to sustain ourselves for the long term," concludes Aakritee.
Contact their helpline number for assistance: 011-411-82977
For online counselling: covidresponse.in, firstname.lastname@example.org