SRINAGAR: The UT-level Tele Mental Health Assistance and Networking Across States (Tele-MANAS) cell, established at the Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (IMHANS) Srinagar, is proving to be a boon for persons requiring assistance in stress, drug addiction, anxiety-related issues as it has received more than 23,000 calls since its inception in Jammu and Kashmir nine months ago.
The first-of-its-kind mental health helpline, launched on November 4, 2022, is a three-tier system that has mental health counselors, clinical psychologists and psychiatrists available for patients’ calls.
Talking to the news agency—Kashmir News Observer (KNO), Dr Qazi Haroon, State Program Manager Mental Health J&K said that till date over 23,200 calls including those related to stress, drug addiction, suicidal tendencies and anxiety have been received.
Among these, around 600 were very distressing calls having suicidal tendencies who were counselled on time, he added.
“Tele-MANAS helped us to reach so extensively to common people in such a short period of time. In the near future, more and more people suffering from mental health will find refuge in it,” Dr Haroon said.
He said India’s first Tele-MANAS chatbot, designed to engage with people in distress, that was launched in Jammu & Kashmir last month has managed to provide assistance to around 150 youngsters so far.
“The Chatbot provides round-the-clock access to health counsellors, clinical psychologists, and consultants,” he added.
The doctor said that Chatbot encourages individuals to avail the benefits of this service from the comfort of their homes, addressing privacy concerns and promoting accessibility.
Meanwhile, officials said that due to stigma, people are not seeking psychiatric help. They, however, said that Tele-MANAS has reduced the stigma attached to mental health issues as callers don’t need to reveal their identities.
“Such facilities are being enhanced with an aim to reach to more and more people as around 11 percent of the adult population suffers from mental illness in J&K,” the officials said.
The toll-free number of Tele MANAS Cell J&K is 14416/1-800-891-4416 and for Tele MANAS Chatbot is 9797600601. The cell is open to the general public for providing mental health services and drug de-addiction services 24×7—(KNO)