Assam Government Sets Up a Mental Health Program for Covid19 Patients
In an effort to address its citizens’ mental health concerns, especially those who have tested positive for Covid19, the Assam government has started a support program called Monon to provide emotional support, counseling, and treatment to them, The Indian Express reported.
The program is different from other government-run mental health helplines because the team will proactively provide help by calling Covid19 patients, as they may be vulnerable to developing symptoms of anxiety and depression. However, it will also act as an additional helpline over and above the existing one, for anyone suffering from mental stress in the state, The Shillong Times reported.
“This is a unique kind of a programme, where the mental health professionals are calling those who might need help rather than just waiting for them to call us,” Dr. Mythili Hazarika, the leader of the program and an associate professor of Clinical Psychology at Gauhati Medical College and Hospital told The Indian Express.
The Monon team comprises 220 psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, psychiatric social workers, and trained counselors. Each person is allotted to call at least 15 Covid19 patients per day. These professionals will also be responsible for developing treatment and rehabilitation programs based on their assessment of patients’ mental health status.
So far, Assam has reported over 6,370 active Covid19 cases and the Monon team has made close to 2,500 calls to under-treatment Covid19 patients or those who have recovered. They have found that at least half of these people showed symptoms of depression, clinical anxiety, and some even showed suicidal tendencies arising due to job losses, financial insecurities, and a sense of uncertainty caused due to the pandemic.
Stressing on how important it is to reach out to people given the current circumstances, Samir Sinha, principal secretary, Health and Family Welfare Department said, “Unless we reach out, we will never be able to provide the necessary mental health support to a vast majority, which will otherwise remain silent about their suffering.”
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Governments around the world had anticipated that the global health crisis will soon be followed by a mental health crisis. This is because issues such as unemployment, starvation, an increase in gender-based violence, and poverty arising as a result of the pandemic will end up affecting people’s mental health and may lead to a rise in cases with problems such as chronic stress, anxiety, and depression.
This highlights the need for the Central and state government to improve their approach towards mental health services. The Assam government’s step to launch Monon, over and above the already existing government-run mental health helpline, is an encouraging step that may not only alleviate problems before they get worse by addressing them right at the start but also help in improving public attitude towards mental health.
This step is also an example for other state governments to follow, especially because those belonging to disadvantaged communities don’t always have access to existing support programs. And for those who do, stigma towards mental health ends up becoming an obstacle to seeking treatment. The Monon program provides a valuable roadmap for other state governments to address the other health crisis silently unfolding alongside Covid19.