Around 75 percent of callers were people between ages 15 and 40, and around 18 percent were from people between ages 41 and 60.
Many studies and health experts have voiced their worry that with the ongoing pandemic, mental health issues are on the rise due to lockdowns causing people to be increasingly isolated. Fast-paced changes in the recent past, like working from home, temporary unemployment, being cut off from friends and family and lack of physical contact can also cause various issues to crop up. To help out, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (SJE) along with the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities set up a mental health helpline in September 2020. An internal report from the SJE found that between 16 September 2020 and 15 January 2021, around 13,550 calls were made, of which more than 70 percent of callers were men and 29.5 percent were women.
Called Kiran, this is India’s first mental health helpline (1800-599-0019) it is available 24/7 and it toll-free. It is aimed at providing mental health support to people who are facing anxiety, stress, depression, suicidal thoughts or have any other mental health concerns. The helpline provides first stage counselling and advice and will refer patients with severe illnesses to counsellors, with a special focus on persons with disabilities, reported The Print. The helpline is available in 13 languages and has 660 clinical/rehabilitation psychologists and 668 psychiatrists as volunteers.
According to The Hindu report, majority of callers – around 75 percent – were made by people between the age of 15 to 40 years and around 18 percent were made by people between the age of 41 to 60 years. 40.32 percent calls came from North India while 27.08 percent of the calls were from Western India. Southern India made 16.99 percent of the calls followed by 11.28 percent of calls from the East and 4.33 percent from the North East.
The report also states that 65.9 percent had milder nature of distress while 26.5 percent were moderately distressed and 7.6 percent were severely distressed. There is no information on how these distinctions were made and how does one measure the state of the distress exhibited by a person.
From the calls that were made to the helpline, around 32 percent of the callers were students while 15.2 percent were self-employed, 27.1 percent were employed, 23.3 percent were unemployed, 1.4 percent were home-makers and 0.7 percent did not reveal the employment status. According to a report by Drishti, operators were told not to ask callers for their name or any identification details and calls into question how this information was available to be collated.
While the majority of the calls were made to help themselves, around 78 percent, some calls were also made to find out how the callers could help their family members and others. Mental health professionals conducted a total of 1,618 follow up calls.