Budget 2022: Experts In Odisha Laud National Tele Mental Health Programme, Want Proper Training For Counsellors

Bhubaneswar: Dubbing the surge in mental health cases as a ‘shadow pandemic’ amid the prevailing COVID situation, mental health experts in Odisha welcomed the announcement of the ‘National Tele Mental Health’ programme in Budget 2022.

While presenting the Budget 2022, Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday stated that the COVID pandemic has accentuated mental health problems in people of all ages. In wake of such incidents, the Budget this year proposed the launch of 23 tele-mental health centres with the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS) as the nodal centre. Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Bangalore would provide tech support for the mental health programme, she added.

President of Indian Psychiatric Society, Odisha state branch, Dr Pranab Mohapatra said such a programme is a much-needed step towards the mental wellbeing of our country.

“People have lost jobs and sources of earning. Some have lost close ones to COVID. Our social activities have stalled and students have stopped going to school. This has caused a shadow pandemic of mental distress. There is a surge in the cases of anxiety and depression and even cases of suicides. Patients with major mental disorders are unable to reach out for treatment due to fear and restrictions during the waves of the pandemic. The National Tele Mental Health programme will help patients to reach out to mental health professionals in times of distress even if they are far away physically. This will provide timely advice and suggestions for further care,” he added.

However, the mental health expert also opined that there is a need to increase the capacity of mental health workers to effectively deliver services across digital platforms in a structured way.

A section of mental health experts like Anuradha Mohapatra of Manam Wellness Centre emphasized that it was of utmost importance that the tele-counsellors would be trained for the programme. “When you are talking about qualitative counselling, the focus should be on proper training of those being roped in for the programme. They should be able to handle even acute cases of suicide. Another concern is whether these centres would have 24×7 facilities. The knowledge of the local language will also be a key factor so as to reach out to people in the rural areas as well,” she said, adding that the government must think of increasing the number of such centres considering the huge volume of cases.

Lauding the initiative, psychiatrist Samrat Kar said the government should also focus on including more psychiatric medicines or all drugs used for treating various mental health disorders so that psychiatrists can prescribe those to the patients. They should inculcate modern mental health treatment, besides the traditional methods, he added.

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