Tele-counselling helps people wade through stress, depression

Chennai: The lockdown is not an easy phase to get through. People who are quarantined battle fears and constantly watch out for symptoms, while those who are alone at home experience loneliness and senior citizens are in need of support.

The Greater Chennai Corporation’s Covid-19 Tele-Counselling Centre which functions from the first floor of Rippon Building has been helping such people in myriad ways.

A team of 100 professional psycho-social volunteers comprising of social workers, psychologists and mental health professionals makes calls to the home quarantined. The team, which also has doctors and engineers from the civic body, has also been taking calls from distressed people.

The facility is run with the support of Department of Social Work, Loyola College. A large conference hall at Rippon Building is now the call centre for counselling from 8 am to 8 pm.

In the beginning of the lockdown when 23,000 persons with travel history were asked to be home quarantined, the Chennai Corporation set up the facility to call and ask if they were developing any symptoms or needed any help.
Later, the civic body began checking on passengers coming from other States by flight and train.

Professor Andrew of Department of Social Work, Loyola College says, “The centre receives a number of calls each day not just from distressed people, but also from those may need a travel pass or even cable connection. Initially, some home quarantined people asked why we were calling. Now, if they miss the call they get back to us and report on their health status. They have understood what we are doing.”

With the team working efficiently, the quarantined persons get two calls a day. Andrew says the facility has come as a comfort to many senior citizens. Sample this: An elderly man at Old Washermenpet was alone and wanted his disconnected cable TV back. He called the helpline, the volunteers immediately arranged it for him. In another case, a 65-year-old woman who was quarantined had her birthday recently. She was feeling low as she did not get any wishes that day until 11 am.

On hearing it was his birthday, all the volunteers in the room stood up and sang wishes to her over the phone.
The facility is also helping foreigners who are quarantined in the city. The daily calls have been a support for a young foreigner who came to Chennai with her husband. Now that the young couple are separately quarantining, they appreciate being checked on.

Associate Professor Gladston Xavier, who heads the unit says, “the need is quite huge. That is why we receive an overwhelming number of calls. It is a two way traffic. We find out how they are doing and the medical team checks for symptoms. Those in isolation experience stress and depression, we address these concerns.”

The centre can be reached at 044-46122300.


Naomi N