Tele-psych counseling services prove to be a life saver for many in the state

Staff attend a call at the Tele-Mental Healthcare Service Center on the campus of Siddhartha Medical College in Vijayawada. , photo credit: Giri KVS

Mental health issues among people are on the rise of late and access to mental healthcare is still a distant dream for many, especially in rural areas.

To make mental health care accessible to people irrespective of their location, the central government has launched ‘Tele Manas’ cells across the country under the National Tele Health Program of India.

Andhra Pradesh’s health department set up a ‘Tele Manas’ cell on the campus of Siddhartha Medical College in January and addressed the issues of around 2,500 distressed persons through consultations through phone calls.

Andhra Pradesh’s Tele Manas Cell has prevented around 45 suicide attempts through tele-counseling between October 11, 2022, and May 9, 2023, says J Niwas, commissioner of health and family welfare.

All the counselors are trained in tele-counseling in virtual mode by the faculty of National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences. They say that counselors attend calls of persons with mental health distress and counsel them for about 20 to 30 minutes.

how it works

State Program Officer Dr TVSN Shastri explains how Tele Manas Cell plays a vital role in rescuing people in distress, says many people in distress due to family issues, extramarital affairs, academic pressure and other matters before taking extreme steps call the centre.

In one such case, a man whose wife had an extramarital affair called Tele Manas Kendra and narrated how, unable to face the society, he became addicted to alcohol and gave up hope of life. The man was referred to a psychiatrist who successfully treated him, he explains.

As per the process, the counselors engage with the callers for about 20-30 minutes and try to address their concerns. Later, wherever necessary the cases are referred to the psychiatrists in the district hospitals.

Out of 20 posts of counselors sanctioned for SAIL, 13 are counselors. The cell receives around 30 calls daily.

People in distress or who need counseling can dial 14416 or 18008914416.