Chennai: “Can I stay with my family during quarantine?”
“Why 28 days’ quarantine in Tamil Nadu when other places have 14 days?”
“Why should I quarantine when I don’t have symptoms?”
These are some of the common questions people calling the Greater Chennai Corporation’s Covid-19 tele-counselling centre have. While many of the doubts have been basic and even borderline silly, the counsellors – understandably – have taken a compassionate route in handling the distress calls. Ensuring good mental health of people in the state, especially the ones quarantined, is high priority for the authorities.
“Psychological support is a daily part of things. Anyone will get frustrated when they are asked to be alone for so many days,” says Dr Pradeep Selvaraj, team leader of the Covid-19 tele-counselling centre and district programme officer of Chennai.
“When we call, they’ll actually chit-chat with us. It’s not surprising, because they need someone to talk to. We welcome it, we won’t be harsh with them. Since we’re talking daily, they ask us ‘enna sir nalla irukeengala, epdi irukeenga (how are you, sir)?’ They now tell us ‘sir, unga udamba paathukkonga (please take care of your health), you are fighting for us’ to the doctors. It’s now a mutual rapport.”
The quarantined people may also have some mental illness and may require some drugs, he said. “We have a separate counselling centre for mental health issues in Chennai. They can call us or they can call the general helpline number 102. We have a separate association of clinical psychologists. We get calls from people suffering from depression. So we call them every day to enquire if they have extreme thoughts. To some extent, the psychologists can help. But in cases where it goes beyond, then we will admit them at IMH (Institute of Mental Health). We will take them to dedicated hospitals and treat them.”
The counsellors are also aware that not everyone wants to speak to the authorities on a daily basis. They’ve, thus, turned to technology.
“With the quarantined people, we aim to form a rapport. We also formed a WhatsApp group with the doctors and volunteers. Under the doctors’ group, all the quarantined people will be added. It creates a kind of friendship and they can also inform if they have any issues. This kind of rapport helps them come out of their problems.”
So far, the helpline, which was opened on March 30, has received around 23,000 calls.
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