There are a number of helplines that have been started by the government ever since the lockdown was imposed in India in view of the rising cases of coronavirus. Be it to answer queries regarding the pandemic, or to help people with food and groceries. or deal with mental stress. The Maharashtra government launched two helpline numbers in the state to help people dealing with mental stress during the lockdown. They are 1800120820050 and 18001024040.
1800120820050 helpline number was started by the Mumbai municipal corporation in collaboration with Mpower, an initiative of the Aditya Birla Education Trust. This number has been in operation since April 3. It was largely made popular by the Bollywood film fraternity who asked people, dealing with mental stress, to dial the number for a conversation.
In the past three weeks, this number has received nearly 35,000 calls.
“Most common query, we are coming across is related to anxiety. People are complaining about anxiety during the quarantine. People report anxieties about their future, job, health as well as the wellbeing of the family. Along with anxieties, many are dealing with depression,” Parveen Shaikh, Psychologist & Head Outreach & Collaborations, Mpower, said.
He said, “We have also encountered calls mainly from the elderly population and hostel students about feeling lonely and trapped. We are also dealing with relationship issues. This is mainly secondary to sharing responsibilities, doing household chores and lack of personal space.”
1800120820050 is a 24X7 helpline on which, the mental health counsellors, clinical psychologists and psychiatrists have been getting the majority of calls from Mumbai (& Suburbs), Pune, Satara, Solapur, Pimpri-Chinchwad, Yavatmal, Raigad, Aurangabad, etc.
The counsellors have also received calls from Delhi, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and other states.
“There are 10 per cent more women callers than men. In the age spectrum, the majority of callers are in their 20s and 30s. Interestingly, many young callers are worried and anxious about their parents who are old,” Parveen Shaikh said.
Another helpline number — 18001024040 — has been put up by the Tribal Development Department, Project Mumbai and Prafulta, and was launched on April 19. This helpline number has also been receiving thousands of calls every day even though it is operational for only 12 hours.
“We had started with 30 counsellors but had to engage more counsellors after we were flooded with calls. Now we have close to 70 counsellors. Ninety per cent of the calls are for food and food-related services while only limited calls were for mental health or stress-related issues. An assumption is that proper food communication mechanism has not been set up. Where should one approach for food, will the public distribution system have all the food grains. What about other pulses? Shops are shut what do we do with that? So in that confusion, they called up the helpline,” Shishir Joshi, CEO, Project Mumbai, said.
With the number of calls coming in for food, Project Mumbai has also equipped their counsellors with district food services and their contact numbers. The counselling is done in Marathi, Hindi and English.
This helpline, too, has been getting calls from across Maharashtra, Gadchiroli, Nagpur, Nanded, many parts of Mumbai.
“Some of them are absurd calls like my gas is not working so what do I do? I need a cylinder what can I do. Some people say they are feeling lonely so they call. So we are getting all kinds of calls,” says Joshi while adding that Project Mumbai has also started two other helplines. One is called ‘Counsellors on-call’ and the second is called ‘Special Needs Therapist’.