CHENNAI: With the city battling a second and more intense Covid crisis, the psychosocial needs for coronavirus patients and their family members are often overlooked. Dr Beena Thomas, consultant social scientist with the ICMR's National Institute for Research in Tuberculosis (NIRT), says that timely psychosocial counselling for patients and families waiting outside hospitals or for family members
separated from COVID-19 patients should be integrated into the Covid management process.
The city corporation's round-the-clock control rooms reach out to those Covid patients under home quarantine, however, others like family members of those affected are mostly left out.
Excerpts of an interview with her:
Q: What could be the first step for Corporation and health authorities in offering psychosocial counselling?
A: Sometimes, the waiting period (to get a bed) is around 12 hours. We have to look into what kind of psychosocial support they are being offered in that time period- are they being told how long they might have to wait before they get a bed or alternatives if they don't. The city corporation is already roping in final year MBBS students for tele-counselling centres. Similarly, qualified and trained counsellors and students should also ideally be connected to the patients or their family right from the time they are awaiting results.
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Q: What kind of issues do you come across patients dealing with, recently?
A: The panic sets in right from when they await their Covid 19 test results. Some people, when they are whisked away in the ambulance, don't know where they will be taken to. Their relatives and family members are also in a state of uncertainty especially because they've seen the scenes outside hospitals being flashed by the media.
Q: Where would this lead us to if no interventions are done during this point in time?
A: Even after the entire process is over, such experiences may scar people for life. They say time will heal; it will not. It cannot heal a wound that is not there to see. Timely intervention is essential to
help them avoid the trauma.
ICMR's 'Guidance Document for Psychosocial Counselling for COVID-19 Positive Patients and their Family Members' states, "Though Overcoming distress adaptively supports and accentuates the recovery of the patients with COVID-19,sometimes,distress becomes so overwhelming for few that it has a deleterious impact on the patients' mental health, impeding recovery in many cases."