COVID-19 pandemic has stirred the mental health and depression talks among the youth today. You will find it hard to believe that India has the highest suicide burden in the world. The much more sad reality is that even in 2020, it is still a taboo to talk about mental health issues. Even today people suffering anxiety and depression are termed ‘weak-minded’ and ‘cowards’. It’s time that we become a little more empathetic towards the people around us and their suffering. To raise awareness about mental health issues and to help people overcome it, the Indian government has launched its first National Mental Health Helpline named ‘KIRAN’ (1800-599-0019).
KIRAN is jointly developed by the Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry and its partners. The aim of this helpline is to provide support for early screening, psychological support, first-aid, distress management, promoting overall mental well-being, and psychological crisis management. The helpline not only offers mental health rehabilitation services, but also offers several other services such as resolving stress, depression, anxiety, panic attack, PTSD, suicidal thoughts, adjustment disorder, and other psychological issues. Furthermore, the KIRAN helpline will offer you mental health support in 13 languages. It will also be accessible in areas such as Jammu & Kashmir, Ladakh, the eight North-Eastern states, Andaman and Nicobar islands and Lakshwadeep.
The KIRAN helpline was launched virtually by the Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment Thawar Chand Gehlot on 27 August 2020. The minister also clarified that the helpline will be supported by 668 volunteer psychiatrists, 660 volunteers, clinical and rehabilitation psychologists, and 75 health experts at 25 health centers that can handle up to 300 patients per hour. The helpline will work on a three-tier system. Firstly, the caller will be connected to the location-based helpline center and then as per his/her need, they will be referred to Psychologists and clinical psychiatrists. Furthermore, follow-up treatment will be initiated at the third-level. The government has also conducted three training programs for the training of mental health centers.
According to the government, the KIRAN helpline will be handled by top officials from the National Institute for the Empowerment of Persons with Multiple Disabilities (NIEPMD, Chennai) and the National Institute of Mental Health Rehabilitation (NIMHR, Sehore). Also, several other agencies such as the Indian Association of Clinical Psychologists (IACP), Indian Psychiatrists Association (IPA), and Indian Psychiatric Social Workers Association (IPSWA) will be collaborating with the government on this project. Based on the prevalence of mental health issues in India and the surge in the patients suffering from depression during COVID-19, lead the DEPwD Secretary, Shakuntala D. Gamlin to initiate this idea. Hopefully, people will benefit from this initiative and the KIRAN helpline will be able to change millions of lives.