UP migrant returnees extended psychological support to overcome Covid blues

Migrants workers, who returned to their hometowns in hordes walking hundreds of miles facing all the possible hardships of the arduous journey, went through the bouts of depression and anxiety.

Published: 27th July 2020 05:35 PM  |   Last Updated: 27th July 2020 05:35 PM   |  A+A-


For representational purposes (Photo | PTI)

Express News Service

LUCKNOW: Leaving the workplace in a huff, the Covid-19 scare, an uncertain future, joblessness, financial crunch and a sense of abandonment pushed many of the UP migrants, who had returned to Uttar Pradesh, to the brink. They found it difficult to cope with the unexpected emergent scenario. Result: Many recoiled, slipped into depression, had bouts of anxiety, and were clueless about the life ahead.

Many who could not make peace with the situation took the extreme step. However, the unprecedented situation called for intervention by mental health experts and psychologists to provide relief to those who failed to come to grips. Consequently, the UP government collaborated with UNICEF and mental health experts were roped in across the state to address the mental issues faced by migrants and others.

According to Dinesh Kumar, Child Protection Officer, UNICEF, in all 37,681 migrant workers -- 30,828 males and 6853 females -- have been extended psychological support so far across the state.

Following the sudden lockdown since March 25, migrants workers, who had started returning to their hometowns in hordes walking hundreds of miles facing all the possible hardships of the arduous journey, went through the bouts of depression and anxiety.

Sukesh Kant, 50, of Lakhimpur Kheri tried to commit suicide by jumping in front of the train but was saved by a whisker. Suffering from acute depression, he was disappointed and disillusioned with life. He had returned from Surat where he worked in a textile mill after it was shut. He was angry with the government for announcing back to back lockdowns rendering him jobless as he had a family of eight to feed.

Similarly, Brijendra Gupta of Kanpur Dehat tried to end his life by drinking pesticide. Gupta, who was working as a security guard in a company in Delhi, returned home after it was shut down. He had the anxiety of being penniless. He was saved and later during a counselling session claimed that he tried to end life as he was unemployed and had a wife, four children and an unwell mother to take care of. He said that though he got wheat and rice from the government ration shop, it was not enough to feed his family. He said he was left penniless and unable to buy other essential commodities and medicines for his mother.

UP received around 35 lakh migrant labourers from different states across the country. Scores of them faced issues related to mental health ranging from depression to anxiety.

A study conducted recently by a team of Indian Psychiatry Society (IPS) claimed that there had been an almost 20% rise in mental illness during the crisis. Not only the migrants but also those who had been living back at home with children stranded in other states also faced similar bouts of anxiety.
With more and more instances of mental illness coming to fore, the State Government collaborated with UNICEF and roped in counsellors for providing mental health solutions to people during lockdown and quarantine.

To address the issues, UNICEF collected a pool of experts that included practising psychologists, psychiatrist and academicians working in psychology. The counsellors for Mental Health and Psychological Support were oriented to help outpatients in context with COVID.

According to Dinesh Kumar, the volunteers function along with workers of National Health Mission. Moreover, a helpline number 1800-180-5145 was issued. A government order was issued on April 2 directing the mental health workers to counsel those housed in relief camps and quarantine centres.

Every District magistrate across 75 districts of the state was sent contact numbers of 75 counsellors to be made available to the public. A migrant labourer from eastern UP was facing acute depression and he called up at helpline number. He was attended by a psychologist who calmed him down and convinced him that there would be adequate essential supplies and he would soon get back to his job, said a senior government official of the labour department, the nodal agency for ensuring psychological support to migrant labourers.

According to officials, the contacts of the professionals are their own personal numbers that were released to move beyond “helplines” and give a “personal touch” to the counselling.

Narrating the plight of the migrants, one of the counsellors shared that many of the migrants had fears that the lockdown would continue forever. For many others, quarantine centres were no less than jails. As they were feeling helpless and trapped, the counsellors on their part provide assurances and use
professional techniques to address mental issues.

The psychological support was extended for anyone and not specifically to those in quarantine. So many people in lockdown just want to have a conversation because several of them are alone, away from their homes to ease their anxiety, said the officials.

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