Amid coronavirus lockdown, this Mumbai NGO is helping parents cope with stress

Updated: Apr 01, 2020, 09:39 IST | mid-day online correspondent | Mumbai

Launches pan-India counselling service to address the concerns of parents of children with disabilities

Children play a board game during their free time at Sewri. (Photo: Shadab Khan)
Children play a board game during their free time at Sewri. (Photo: Shadab Khan)

Amid the coronavirus outbreak, a prominent NGO 'Project Mumbai' has started a unique drive to help people cope with their worries by conducting free counselling sessions on call. The pan-India counselling service launched on Friday, has been specifically curated for parents of children with disabilities. The phone lines are open from 8 am to 8 pm, seven days a week, and parents can dial in and share their fears or queries with experts.

"We have 50 counsellors from across India volunteering in this initiative", says Shishir Joshi, CEO and Co-Founder, Project Mumbai. "The service is available in eight languages and we are getting calls from across the country". Among the callers was a paraplegic person whose maid is unable to come to work due to the lockdown.

With schools being shut and no extra-curricular activities available, it becomes tough for parents to address their childrens’ anxiety levels.

Special needs therapists

Joshi says they have 30 special need therapists on board. On Day 1, they received 14 calls and since then the number of calls gradually increased.

"There is clearly a crying need for this. We equipped the therapists with an idea of the questions they are likely to be asked and gave them activity ideas to share. The good thing is that people are opening up because until now special needs counselling has been a private matter and not many people really make a call to talk about what they are experiencing," Joshi added.

Among the therapists to volunteer is paediatric occupational therapist and Project Noor founder Shabnam Rangwala. "One of the main challenges parents are sharing relate to keeping their child occupied. Many kids, especially those on the autism spectrum, are finding it hard to deal with the change in routine”.

Mimansa Popat, Consultant Special Educator, Psychotherapist and Trainer at Prafulta Psychological Services, said "One of the basic queries of parents relating to anxiety is if something happened to them the kids would be left high and dry."

"I tell them to take care of themselves. It is quite frankly a normal anxiety reaction of a parent and it needs to be treated in a normal way." Prafulta is the training and implementation partner of Project Mumbai.

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