In 2019, Nikita Gupta completed her graduation in psychology from the national capital’s Lady Shri Ram College. Less than a year later (on March 15), she set up a COVID-19 helpline (+91 7707070002). The primary reason for starting this helpline, says Gupta, was the increasing number of cases of depression and anxiety due to some professionals feeling devoid of a workplace ambience after being instructed to work from home in the lockdown period. The helpline took off in association with a mental health startup, Mentdoc.
“The helpline is an attempt to reinstate emotional well-being by providing social and emotional support needed during this time of distress which our team of around 70 volunteers, including 35 students from different colleges and trained counsellors, offers. Looking at the current situation of increasing Covid-19 cases in the country, we expect more people connecting with us for help,” explains Gupta.
The helpline, 7707070002 or email@example.com, Gupta says, receives between 25-30 calls per day apart from a number of WhatsApp messages and emails. The helpline is also open for anyone experiencing symptoms of depression like distress, isolation or feeling out of control.
“Social distancing is the only measure to break the infection chain in the present situation, and people need to keep themselves engaged in fruitful activities to keep their mental health intact. This is what we tell people who connect with us,” says Gupta.
Most callers, she informs, fall in the 21-40 age bracket, which comprises around 80 per cent of the calls, messages and emails they receive.
“The issues they seek help for include how to remain productive during this lockdown, deal with exams dates being shifted, health of family members, and medical students scared to step out of their homes. We also get calls from family members of doctors and nurses,” Gupta shares.
The helpline also has a tagging system that redirects people to a suicide helpline in case the queries indicate suicidal tendencies. The not-so-serious cases are assigned to the psychology students. Only in cases where the query is beyond their expertise, it is taken over by expert psychologists. “In all our communications, we explicitly state that we are not a counselling service but an emotional support service,” clarifies Gupta. The startup also invites volunteers who are willing to put in their bit as phone operators or awareness agents.
Social media access
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(@covid19helpline india) pages