Budget 2022: Experts laud move to launch national tele mental health programme amid pandemic
Bengaluru's NIMHANS has been chosen to become the nodal centre & IIIT Bangalore will provide technology support for the national tele mental health programme
Mental health experts have lauded the Union Budget for its focus on the issue, which they said is the need of the hour. Bengaluru's NIMHANS has been chosen to become the nodal centre & IIIT Bangalore will provide technology support for the national tele mental health programme that will be launched in the wake of the pandemic accentuating mental health problems in people of all ages.
The programme will boost access to quality mental health counselling and care services and will comprise a network of 23 tele mental health centres of excellence.
With COVID-19 affecting the mental health of the public who have been adapting to physical, psychological and economic changes since the beginning of the pandemic, the initiative is likely to help lakhs of people.
In Karnataka, this kind of tele counselling is said to be doing very well with more than 30 lakh tele counselling sessions conducted during the first and second waves of the pandemic. Besides Covid patients and those in quarantine and isolation, those counselled included Covid patients who required treatment and therapy for anxiety and depression.
Taking to Twitter, Dr K Sudhakar claimed credit to Karnataka for initiating a similar programme from the beginning of the pandemic. He said, “Karnataka recognised the need for mental health counselling at the very beginning of the pandemic and set up helplines for tele counselling. So far, the helpline set up at NIMHANS has counselled 26.08 lakh people through its tele-counselling sessions during the pandemic.”
Meanwhile several mental health experts have appreciated the move. Ameera Shah, Promoter & Managing Director, Metropolis Healthcare, said, "The initiative taken for mental health is welcomed by the healthcare industry. Irrespective of age, gender, and occupation, the need for focus on mental health is necessary given the current situation. The national tele mental health programme is a positive step to support national mental health counselling and care services,”
Appreciating the move, Neerja Birla, Founder and Chairperson, Mpower, a mental health care initiative, said, "This initiative will go a long way in helping people of all ages to access quality mental health. Today, having a platform where people can voice their concerns freely and safely is the first step towards mental wellness, and I am confident that with this, India will be able to bring about a much needed change in society."
Nimhans has already been running tele mental health services for the last seven years. At a time when it has been very difficult to meet in person for appointments and also follow-ups, telemedicine and tele counselling services will play a major role, said Dr Mahesh Gowda, chairman, founder Spandana Hospital for Mental Health. Spandana also has its own mental health helpline where one can just give a missed call and there will be immediate response from the team which will also provide them not only enough reading material but also a chat bot which can help in putting the patient across to the right counsellor.