BENGALURU: In anticipation of a possible third wave of Covid-19 and its perceived impact on children and those not vaccinated, the Union Government has asked the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (Nimhans) to support the two helplines 1098 for children and 1091 for women -- with mental healthcare professionals.
“The Ministry of Women and Child Development has asked Nimhans to help the two helplines with trained mental health professionals who can address the issues of women and children that may arise as a result of the third wave and its impact on children,” said Dr K Sekar, Head of Centre for Disaster Management, Nimhans. “We have 40 professional volunteers and have split them into two tertiary and secondary groups to handle the two helplines,” he added.
India has the largest population of youngsters in the world, with children constituting 10 per cent. “The pandemic has gravely impacted education and the skill sets that children acquire in school. We have to look at a new normal to bring a balance between online and offline education,” he said.
Meanwhile, Dr Sekar said the national helpline -- 080-46110007 -- launched by Nimhans in March last year to provide psycho-social help to people in the wake of the pandemic, has received 4,48,458 calls till April this year. “There are 656 mental health professionals from 24 mental health centres of excellence who have been handling the national helpline in 12 languages,”
said Dr Sekar. He said that 70 per cent of the calls are from Hindi-speaking states and the remaining are from South India and other non-Hindi speaking states. “Most of the calls are related to worries on isolation and logistic issues. Around 12% of the calls are on child-based issues, disruption in education and livelihood, food and severe financial distress.
There are calls related to bereavement and post-traumatic stress and there are calls of burnout by frontline health workers,” he added. “There is too much negativity around. People are picking up only negative information. Nimhans is preparing communication material to educate the public, especially in rural areas and help them build coping mechanisms. Children must be allowed to express themselves and adults should help them with right information,” said Dr Sekar.