JK’s Tele MANAS Mental Health Helpline Receives Over 10,000 Calls

   

SRINAGAR: In a significant achievement towards providing quality mental healthcare for all, the UT level Tele-Mental Health Assistance and Networking Across States (Tele-MANAS) cell, established at the Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (IMHANS) in Srinagar, has received more than 10,000 calls since its launch in Jammu and Kashmir on November 4, 2022.

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The first-of-its-kind mental health helpline is a three-tier system that has mental health counsellors, clinical psychologists, and psychiatrists available for patients’ calls. Doctors at IMHANS informed that since its launch, they have received 10,000 calls related to stress, drug addiction, suicidal tendencies, and anxiety.

Secretary of Health and Medical Education (H&ME), Bhupendra Kumar, elaborated on the significance of the Tele-MANAS cell in the UT, saying that telemedicine is a broader concept and teleconsultation is part of it. “People can call on the toll-free number and seek advice on mental health issues. Since its launch, the number of calls has increased, and the quality of calls has also. People who took the first consultation are calling for follow-ups also with psychologists and psychiatrists,” he said.

The Secretary added that Tele-MANAS would also be linked to the e-Sehaj portal where doctors can prescribe medicine. “We want people to use this facility, and Tele-MANAS is the way forward. It is more important for remote and far-off places where there is a shortage of doctors and specialists,” he added.

Mission Director, NHM J&K, Ayushi Sudan, said there is a lot of stigma attached to mental health issues and, with Tele-MANAS, people are coming forward with these issues. “The individual calls reach one or two hours, and it is available 24/7. A lot of mental health issues occur during nighttime. We have been able to cover a lot of people. It is accessible and free. We want to expand it in the future at the district level as well,” she said.

Ayushi Sudan said the NHM J&K is also planning to expand mental health coverage across the districts to cover mental health issues, but the approach may be different from Tele-MANAS. “We will be having district mental health plans. Tele-MANAS is beginning in our initiative. We are also planning to integrate the suicide helpline,” she said.

As an extension to the service delivery framework of the existing Tele-MANAS helpline, they have developed the Tele-MANAS Chatbot, the first of its kind in the entire country. It will enable users to chat directly about their basic mental health problems for a solution, and subsequently, patients can be referred to the Tele-MANAS cell.

Dr. Qazi Haroon, State Program Manager Mental Health J&K, said Tele-MANAS is being linked to the District Mental health program across all the districts of JK UT. A comprehensive communication strategy/IEC formulated has actually helped us to reach so extensively to common people in such a short period.

Pertinently, J&K stands at rank 2 in the whole country as far as daily calls received by Tele-MANAS Cells are concerned.(GNS)

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