Published: 27th April 2020
Depressed during lockdown? COVID Saathi is the helpline where you can find a sympathetic ear
Need a sympathetic ear to clear your head during the lockdown? Just call COVID Saathi, an effort by volunteers to spread some positivity during these hard and testing times. This is how they function
No matter how lonely or worried you get during the lockdown, know that you've got a friend in COVID Saathi. This helpline number started by Additional Commissioner of Income Tax Mala Paropkari, CEO of car rental marketplace Zyppys, Rajani Kasu and Revanth Yalamanchili, who has ample prior experience in disaster management was launched to help people with the unprecedented situation on hand. Because these are the times when people want to reach out. "They are in need of someone who can offer emotional support and be a friend, especially those who are in isolation or quarantine. They need an empathetic and understanding listener," says Revanth. Which is where the 30 volunteers who operate the helpline come in. The helpline may not be a licensed healthcare or treatment provider, but it promises emotional support, willing ears and an empathetic heart.
Dial them for help
"When I worked in Nepal for relief work after the earthquake, I realised that what is scarier for people are the aftershocks. Mentally, it's very disturbing. So I ended up staying for a month to help with relief and rehabilitation," says Revanth, who works at a biotech firm currently. So, he wanted to do his bit this time too. That's when he joined forces with Mala Paropkari and Rajani Kasu to launch the helpline number about 16 days ago. Before they went live, they conducted a video call with their then 20-member team to discuss how they will handle the callers and to also discuss a general framework. Since these are volunteers, they were advised to understand the callers perspective and help them distinguish between rational and irrational fear. Understanding if they are taking enough precautions was also what the volunteers had to inquire about. The aim is to instill confidence in anyone who is calling in and also allay their fears.
Poster | (Pic: COVID Saathi)
Initially, the plan was to launch the helpline for the folks in Telangana alone. But once the number is shared on WhatsApp, there are no boundaries, realised Revanth. "Surprisingly, our first call was from Mumbai," he says and also shares that they get calls from Delhi and Bengaluru as well. Every call goes on for about 15-20 minutes and on a busy day, they receive as many as 150 calls. Every volunteer is on duty for two hours and the timings of the helpline are from 8 am to 12 midnight. Every volunteer speaks at least three languages which include Telugu, Hindi and English with additional languages like Tamil, Kannada, Gujarati and so on. "We have callers from different demographics calling in — white to blue callers, people who have lost their jobs, wives whose husbands have lost their job and even farmers. When we feel there is a need, we do follow up calls with the callers as well. And all this we do on a pro-bono basis," explains Revanth who personally attends to calls too.
What happens next
What is also noteworthy is that after every call, the caller gets an SMS with details of several numbers like government's official WhatsApp number for COVID-19, Telangana's helpline number, Telangana's control room number, links to helpful apps and more. Currently, they are not only looking to expand their volunteer base, but they want to do something worthwhile for the frontline workers as well. "They need to be strong for everyone — their patients and their family included. Their working hours have increased and so has the stress. They are facing a lot and they are the ones who need more support," says Revanth.
If you require help, call +91 7702500928