Srinagar, Dec 10:Last month, the UT-level Tele Mental Health Assistance and Networking Across States (TMANAS) cell was established at the Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (IMHANS) Srinagar. Within no time it started receiving calls from patients including distressed ones.
The first-of-its-kind mental health helpline, launched on Nov 4, is a three-tier system that has mental health counselors, clinical psychologists and psychiatrists available for patients’ calls.
Doctors at IMHANS informed that since its launch, they have received over 600 calls, including 100 related to stress, 100 related to drug addiction, 100 of suicidal tendencies and anxiety-related calls.
Administrative Secretary, Health and Medical Education (H&ME) Department, Bhupinder Kumar, said telemedicine is a broader concept and teleconsultation is part of it.
“People can call on toll-free number and seek advice on mental health issues. Since its launch, the number of calls has increased and the quality of calls also. People who took first consultation are calling for follow-ups also with psychologists and psychiatrists,” he said.
Kumar said TMANAS would also be linked to e-sehaj portal where doctor can prescribe the medicine. “We want people to use this facility and tele is the way forward. It is more important for remote and far-off places where there is a shortage of doctors and specialists,” he said.
Mission Director, NHM J&K, Ayushi Sudan said there is a lot of stigma attached to mental health issues adding with TMANAS, people are coming forward with their mental health issues.
“The individual calls reach to one or two hours and it is 24/7. A lot of mental health issues occur during nighttime. We have been able to cover a lot of people. It is accessible and affordable. We want to expand it in future at the district level as well,” she said.
Sudan also said the NHMJK is also planning to expand mental health coverage across district to cover mental health issues, however, the approach may be different from TMANAS.
“We will be having district mental health plans. TMANAS is beginning in our initiative. We are also planning to integrate the suicide helpline,” she said.
“There are lot of issues that need to be resolved at the district level for that we are trying and hopefully from coming year, we should be able to do something for that,” she said.
As an extension to service delivery framework of the existing National Mental Health Program, the TMANAS initiative has been proposed in the Budget Announcement in February 2022.
Dr Qazi Haroon, State Program Manager Mental Health J&K, said TMANAS is the first such initiative in J&K and it is going to help number of people suffering in insolation.
“It will help people who think that going to a mental health facility for mental ailments is taboo. They would not reveal their identity to anyone. It is going help people and people can call on the helpline at any time. They can talk and take consultation about anything like drug de-addiction, suicides, post Covid-19 stress and other issues,” he said.
Under TMANAS doctors have been able to control 25 suicidal tendencies (pause) in a month. “They stopped thinking about suicide after they got counseling from our designated counselors,” he said.
Dr Haroon said the National Tele Mental Health Program of India, TMANAS envisions to work as a comprehensive tele-mental health facility in each State and UT in India.
“It aims to implement a mental health service network that, in addition to counseling, provides integrated medical and psychosocial interventions including video consultations with mental health specialists, e-prescriptions, follow-up services and linkages to in-person services. It also aims to extend services to vulnerable groups and difficult-to-reach populations,” he said.
Govt. of India in its Union Budget 2022, announced the National Tele Mental Health Program of India, TMANAS and entrusted the Union Health Ministry to guide its overall implementation.
Consequently, the Health Ministry formed a National Technical Advisory Group (NTAG) and three technical advisory sub-committees (Mental Health Service Delivery, Information Technology Architecture and Health Systems) to achieve specific objectives of TMANAS.
In Jammu and Kashmir, the UT level Mentoring Institute and UT level TMANAS Cell has been established at IMHANS, an associated hospital of Govt. Medical College, Srinagar.
Dr Haroon said the TMANAS cell comprises technical staff like counselors, senior consultants, consultants, and clinical psychologist/psychiatric social workers and other HR like technical coordinator/project coordinator, data entry operator and attenders.
The Counselors attend calls based on a brief history of the caller. They provide the care needed within their capabilities or refer the caller for care by mental health professionals (psychiatrist/clinical psychologist/psychiatric social worker).
“Cases of Acute Psychiatric Emergencies and those requiring detailed in-person evaluation and management would be referred to the Tier 2 mental health professionals of Tele MANAS/DMHP/mentoring institution,” he said.
The toll-free number of TMANAS Cell J&K is 14416/1-800-891-4416 and it is open for the general public for providing mental health services and drug de-addiction service 24x7.