CHENNAI: Of the 2.91 lakh calls that were handled by the 104 ‘health’ helpline, only 13,166 were handled by the counsellor at their call centre. All but a miniscule four per cent of their call volume, these are the calls that have really tried and tested the strength of the helpline’s staff. “Everything from youngsters with suicidal tendencies to depressed wives, come through to this number and unlike a health advisory where they are told which hospital to go to, this is personal, individual care,” said a counselling official with the service. More than the calls about the common cold, it is these calls that are ground-breaking.
Exactly a year after it was pressed into service, the helpline run by the State Health Department and GVK EMRI has addressed a need that very few people have touched upon otherwise — psychosexual counselling. “I have gotten five to six calls from young men who are too ashamed to talk to anyone else,” revealed the counsellor. “They had either paid younger boys or bought them ice creams for sexual favours or had indulged in homosexual relations. This leads to a lot of confusion and trauma for them and they need to be counselled multiple times till they stop going to younger boys,” she added. Homosexuality and gay sex may be taboo even in schools in Karur, Namakkal and other districts from whence these calls originated, but the activity was clear and present. “We realised that some of them were just repressed and frustrated and needed to be helped along till they found a suitable marriage partner. We have even spoken to their families,” she explained.
Others have been pointed to counsellors in the nearest district hospitals and even support groups in the NGO sector to help with dealing with alternate sexuality. Similarly, they’ve had quite a bit of success pointing young married couple with ‘sexual frustration’ and an inability to conceive, to the right direction. “Most of them go through native rituals and follow superstitious beliefs thinking that it will help them conceive. But we help them find the nearest hospital with an OB GYN and help them tackle the issue medically,” said a representative from the helpline.