Help, just a call away

Though technology and science may have developed by leaps and bounds, several psycho-social issues arising from development continue to plague our society till today. To aid in first-level assistance for such issues the Centre for Human Ecology of Tata Institute of Social Sciences at Mumbai has launched a nationwide helpline called Icall.

Support for all
“Families, which used to be very good support systems earlier, are not so strong anymore to provide the same kind of support. The number of people who have emotional and psychological problems is not decreasing. And generally the pressures of everyday life are on the rise.

(Extreme right) Dr Sujata Sriram, Chairperson of the  Centre for Human Ecology at TISS at the inauguration of the helpline, on Tuesday

Somewhere we need to think of providing services, which can help these people. That was the genesis of the helpline,” says Dr Sujata Sriram, Chairperson at the Centre. She feels that there are several legal issues that can lead to psychological problems and vice versa and hence the helpline also provides legal support.

The helpline mainly provides first-level assistance to its callers, “There are issues that may not be possible to deal with at the level of a helpline. For example, if a family has an individual with a mental illness who needs medication, we may be able to to advise them to contact a particular hospital that specialises in the cure of that illness in their locality.”

The helpline will address a wide range of issues such as relationship troubles, sexuality and gender problems, violence and abuse, issues faced by the elderly, anxiety, fear, problems arising out of lack of attention for kids with working parents. “We will have to deal with all kinds of problems. Diet, too, plays an important role.

Suppose we get a call from a person suffering from diabetes, who doesn’t want to take medication; we will find an alternative. Also, it’s easy to make a will but several people don’t. Hence, there are several issues that rise in the city when a member of the family dies and there are several people claiming a property where both psychological and legal problems are intertwined,” says Sriram.

Behind the scenes
The centre started work on the helpline in December 2011 and with the help of experts who have been running helplines and other experts in the field of psychology and psychiatry developed a process manual and a protocol in terms of how calls are to be responded to, what are the kind of calls the helpline would refer to and so on: “We need a comprehensive directory as people are going to call us for information and to answer them we need every number right at hand,” maintains Sriram.

Clinical and counselling psychologists, who have been specially trained to handle all kinds of calls, will man the helpline. “The biggest challenge for us was getting good counsellors and retaining them as it’s a challenge finding good professionals in this field in our country,” says Sriram, who now has a team of seven counsellors who will be taking calls six days a week.

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