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State Govt to engage voluntary mental health counsellors


GUWAHATI, May 13 - To address issues of mental health during the prevailing medical emergency situation, the State health and family welfare (H&FW) department will engage voluntary counsellors in every district of Assam soon.

The volunteers will work with other experts in the field in their respective places as per guidelines set by the Central government. Before engagement they will be trained by experts.

The voluntary counsellors will include persons having master degree or other higher degree in psychology, clinical psychology, counselling psychology, psychiatric social work and social work.

To provide psychological assistance to people in need, the H&FW department has already chalked out a standard operating procedure (SOP). Through this procedure mental health support services will be provided to the people who are directly or indirectly affected by COVID-19.

In this venture which will be carried out under the National Mental Health Programme, the department will engage psychiatrists, clinical psychologists and psychiatric social workers along with psychiatrists, clinical psychologists and psychiatric social workers from medical colleges of the State.

Anyone can avail the service through the 104 medical helpline. As per the SOP, when a call is made to the 104 helpline, the same will be forwarded to the counsellors of the respective district.

In case of inmates of quarantine facilities, isolation wards, migrant labour camps, etc., counselling will be done through video call or face-to-face by strictly adhering to safety guidelines.

In case of a client or a caller requiring psychiatric consultation, the call will be forwarded to psychiatrists. If required, the person in need of help may consult the psychiatry department of the medical college in the district concerned.

Alternatively, a telemedicine consultation facility will also be available under the initiative as per telemedicine practice guidelines of the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

Officials concerned will also arrange hospitalisation facility for any person having critical mental illness and rescue operation for homeless mentally ill persons.

The SOP has also suggested upgrading the existing psychiatric and psychological services of Sarathi 104 helpline by engaging more psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, psychiatric social workers and counsellors to offer uninterrupted 24x7 mental health services during the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic.

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