THRISSUR: During the height of the coronavirus pandemic, Jayesh KG — a counsellor with the General Hospital in Irinjalakuda —received a call from a family in Chennai. The family wanted a counselling session for their hearing-impaired child, having received his number through a common friend. They had searched in various places for a counselling session for the child who was struggling to cope with the stressful lockdown days.
“I tried my best to address the feelings of the child,” Jayesh says. “In the first video call session, we communicated through sign language and then we chatted through social media.” Subsequently, he received similar calls from many people as the beneficiaries kept sharing his number among those in search of quality counselling. Jayesh has lent his ears to, and counselled, more than 100 such persons since the onset of the pandemic.
“After talking to them, I realised that mental health programmes are as important as ever in these troubled times. The hearing-impaired don’t have the means to communicate with others if the person on the other end doesn’t know sign language,” he points out. The psychologist stresses that hearing-impaired persons often struggle to get their doubts -- on their future, attaining maturity, etc -- clarified. “How can they do so if they don’t have a platform?” he asks.
Taking that thought forward, Jayesh has come up with a project titled E-Shabd to address the concerns of the hearing-impaired. “The current mental health programmes in the state work on telephone, making it difficult for them to share their concerns. Though interpreters will be available, some confidential matters remain within their minds,” he says.
E-Shabd envisages the setting up of a video call facility and chat line for the hearing-impaired so that counselling too would be possible. It also insists on training counsellors and psychologists in government service in sign language.
All of that began for Jayesh while caring for his brother, Mukesh. “I was the only one who could talk to my brother in sign language and that helped in developing a bond between us,” he recalls. Apart from sign language, another source of communication for hearing-impaired people is lip reading. But the facemask becoming the norm over the past two years has been a major challenge for them.
Jayesh says that, after counselling sessions, treatment was prescribed via short notes to the hearing impaired and their families. Some relaxation techniques were also suggested to those in need. “In some cases, they may need constant follow-up. If so, they are referred to experienced psychiatrists who they can reach out to any time,” he adds.