Srinagar: The Tele Mental Health Assistance and Networking Across States (Tele-MANAS) cell at the Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences Srinagar (IMHANS) has received 42 distress calls across Jammu and Kashmir, since its launch on November 4.
Tele-MANAS is aimed at providing free tele-mental health assistance, particularly to people in remote areas.
A toll-free 24×7 helpline number (14416) has been set up across the country including J&K, allowing callers to avail of services.
Professor at IMHANS, Dr Arshad Hussain, who is also heading the Tele-MANAS centre, told Greater Kashmir that they received at least 12 distress calls on the first day.
“Till now, our centre has received 42 calls and all of them were successfully handled. Most of them were distress calls,” he said.
Dr Hussain said that due to stigma, people were not seeking psychiatric help, but Tele-MANAS would also reduce the stigma attached to mental health issues.
“The callers don’t have to reveal their identities, they can get their mental health issues addressed freely on a phone call,” he said.
Dr Hussain said that about 11.3 percent of the adult population suffers from mental illness in Kashmir.
“People will get prescriptions and medicines while sitting at home in the future. We are planning to get Tele-MANAS linked to eSanjeevani and other portals,” he said.
Dr Hussain said that for people who live in rural areas, especially far-flung areas, this helpline could prove to be a game changer.
“If any person will have psychosis during winters in a far-flung area, the entire family will live in distress. We can lift a gynaecology case but the situation is different for a patient with mental health issues,” he said.
Tele-MANAS would be organised in a three-tier system, which includes counsellors, clinical psychologists, and psychiatrists.
Dr Hussain said that this digital initiative was supposed to be started in 2018, but was halted due to a lack of funds at that time.
“Now the government has taken a step towards digital mental health services. Our centre at IMHANS is supported by NRHM. So, we have completed the requirements and training process. We have conducted mock services as well,” he said.
Dr Hussain said that despite having two to three departments of postgraduates and undergraduates at medical colleges, we still have a gap between people having mental health issues and people seeking help for such issues.
Earlier, the Government of India had announced a National Tele Mental Health Programme (NTMHP) in the Union Budget 2022-23.
The programme includes a network of 23 tele-mental health centres of excellence with NIMHANS being the nodal centre and the International Institute of Information Technology-Bangalore (IIITB) providing technical support.
Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bengaluru and National Health Systems Resource Centre (NHRSC) would provide the technical support.