TISS-UNDP launch iCALL public helpline for COVID psycho-social counselling

New Delhi: As part of their COVID-19 socio-economic response, UNDP India and Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) recently launched a technology-assisted psycho-social counselling service “iCALL” for vulnerable populations in 13 states of India. This service will provide accessible, affordable, and quality counselling services through telephonic, email and chat-based facility to individuals in distress; particularly to those who belong to the marginalized communities. It will also support their referral and linkages to different social protection schemes, jobs and livelihood.

An individual, experiencing psycho-social distress across 13 states covered by UNDP can avail of these services. Given the challenges being posed to the personal, social and professional lives, the distress could be related to difficult or negative emotions (sadness, anxiety, loneliness, boredom, anger, uncertainty, hopelessness or helplessness) and thoughts (thoughts about contracting Coronavirus, losing loved ones, worries about future). It may involve crisis situations including abuse, violence, suicide, and self-harm.

The helpline was launched by Mr. Shingo Miyamoto, Minister, Head of Economic Section (Economic & Development), Embassy of Japan in presence of Ms. Shoko Noda, Resident Representative, UNDP India and Prof. Surinder Jaswal, Professor & Deputy Director, TISS Mumbai.

“Medical workers who are day in and out fighting the crisis, are at the same time facing stigmatization from the society, even though they are the people who are trying to help. Therefore, we all need to make sure that as a society, we all have access to help when needed. Through this facility, we can help people who are in vulnerable situations including our frontline workers, elderly, women, and other marginalized groups access information related to mental health and psychosocial support”, said Mr. Shingo Miyamoto.

“Emotional impact of COVID-19 doesn’t exist in isolation but is nested in everyday life. COVID-19 has given an opportunity to move mental health care to psychosocial support by adopting the human rights framework while addressing the biggest need of inequities of basic needs and appropriate information. This service will be a great milestone in addressing these unmet needs,” Said Prof Surinder Jaswal, TISS.

To observe the occasion of the International Human Rights Day 2020, the helpline launch was followed by a panel discussion on addressing the psycho-social and economic needs of vulnerable populations to help them recover better from the pandemic.

“The iCALL helpline can identify the caller’s location or state and can guide them towards appropriate help as well as link them to social protection schemes. This will not just focus on mental health support but also integrate livelihood issues which is typical of UNDP’s approach of picking up emerging issues as part of its work,” remarked Shoko Noda, Resident Representative, UNDP India


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