( April 15, 2020 )
The pilot phase of tele-counselling which started a week ago in Howrah, Kolkata scanned close to 250 patients daily is now going national.
The National NGO Smile Foundation plans to reach out to 40,000 families in the next one month, across 14 states to provide psychological counselling needs through tele-calling.
"Suicidal tendencies, fears, and anxieties have gripped the poor and migrant labour populations who have been the worst affected by this sudden decision of lockdown by the government to contain the spread of the deadly COVID-19 virus. With the lockdown being extended, our beneficiaries need us more than ever to be there for them. Through this directly connecting with beneficiaries, we aim to create a sense of security and also help in addressing their fears," said Santanu Mishra, Co-Founder, and Executive Trustee, Smile Foundation.
National NGO Smile Foundation, which works on primary healthcare has drawn out a plan to reach out to these marginalized populations and helping them fight their fears and anxiety in this period of lockdown through mental health counseling.
The pilot phase of tele-counselling which started a week ago in Howrah, Kolkata, scanned closed to 250 patients daily. In the coming weeks, the state teams consisting of doctors, nurses, and paramedics will be scaling up operations across all the project states covering both villages and urban slums as well predominantly COVID-19 affected states namely Maharashtra, Delhi-NCR, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Jharkhand, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, and Uttar Pradesh.
"Over the next couple of weeks, trained counselors, doctors, nurses from Smile Foundation will be making make several thousand calls to all beneficiaries within our network and partner organizations to ease out their angst caused by the spread of the deadly corona-virus which has killed more than 300 people and infected upwards of 9000 people across India," said Satnam Singh, health lead at Smile Foundation.
He added, "Through tele-counseling we are creating awareness on the disease, advising on the importance of hand-washing, and guiding the use of masks among other precautionary measures."
"Our pan-India primary healthcare program Smile on Wheels has come up with an innovative way of connecting with beneficiaries due to lockdown. Tele-counseling is a simple and effective way of understanding what the most vulnerable populations are experiencing and how we can help. It not only allows us to provide ears to hear them out worries but also enables us to understand their day-to-day situation. We provide them with the best-suited remedy and ensure that they are safe and healthy." said Hitesh Kumar Choudhary, who works at the Noida location of Smile Foundation.
"Smile doctors and nurses are reaching out to communities adversely affected by the lockdown, more specifically people who need food or further health referrals. They also provide access to government and private service helplines, which the beneficiaries may or may not be aware of."
Last week, Smile Foundation started its first phase of ration distribution wherein it reached out to 40,000 families across 10 states. Over the coming weeks, the foundation aims to reach out to another 1,10,000 families across 19 states and help them meet their daily nutrition needs, as well as sanitation needs like masks, soaps, sanitary napkins and sanitisers.