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CSR News: India’s First FREE Helpline for People Suffering From Mental Health Issues

In India, mental illness is often neglected. The citizens are used to living a stressful life which eventually affects their productivity and efficiency in a negative manner. Lack of understanding and the stigma attached to it is the major barrier towards seeking help related to mental health issues. More than 7.5% of the Indian population suffers some form of serious mental disorder with no observable rural-urban difference as per a study reported in WHO, conducted for the NCMH (National Care Of Medical Health). WHO predicts that more than 20% of the Indian population will suffer from mental illness by the end of 2020. This is largely because of the treatment gap of over 70%, the helpline is a step towards bridging the large gap.
In present times, the global economy is reeling under financial stress as an implication of the pandemic COVID-19. The uncertainty on the recovery has engulfed everyone’s minds with fear and anxiety. People are constantly consuming news related to coronavirus through television, social media, Whatsapp, etc. This is heavily affecting the mental health of the senior citizens as well as millennials and youths.
With an aim to improve the mental wellbeing quotient of the nation, Poddar Foundation in association with Rotary Club has launched a universal helpline number 1800-121-0980 to combat mental illness during COVID-19.
The foundation’s focus has always been to build awareness around mental, behavioural and emotional health issues and inform on its effects on our day to day lives. With this thought, a universal helpline number is launched. The idea is to create an ecosystem where one equips himself/herself to successfully deal with an unfriendly situation. More than 500 volunteers are available to help and address issues related to anxiety and stress for everyone in need, 200 of these is trained actively taking calls and helping people cope in these uncertain times.
In the era of social distancing, these volunteers are fully trained via zoom calls, mock-calls and video training. Since the country has diversity in languages, these volunteers are fluent in multiple languages like English, Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati, Konkani, and Punjabi to help the masses in need. The volunteers are available from 8 am to 8 pm. This helpline is being used by the Goa Government as their official helpline number. Also, this is being used by NSDC and World Peace University.
Spearheaded by the visionary, Ms Prakriti Poddar, Managing Trustee of Poddar Foundation believes in educating and spreading awareness on the unrecognized threats of mental health imbalances. Commenting on initiative Ms Prakriti Poddar, Managing Trustee, Poddar Foundation said, “The idea was to introduce a helpline that can help people across states in India and abroad.  We realized that mental health was not considered an important aspect for many in the country. The vision was to create a platform that can be of help to the people during this pandemic. Due to the nationwide lockdown, people are unable to do their daily activities and keep themselves busy. There is a lot of insecurity related to their jobs, industry’s getting impacted, not being able to meet their friends, unable to plan their savings due to the uncertainty of their salaries, etc.  With a team of volunteers, specialized experts, we aim to bridge the treatment gap that India faces today.  It couldn’t be complete without the help of the Rotary Club, Hinduja Hospital, Masina Hospital, RoundGlass, and other foundations and organisations. The security of mental health and wellbeing has to be a collective endeavour much larger than a single individual’s need.”
“Together we aim to spur a mentally fit, emotionally healthy and physically productive India. “, she further added.
Shri. VK Gautam, Addl. Chief Secretary, Maharashtra State, Human Rights Commission said, “The Maharashtra State Human Rights Commission, understands the importance of mental health, however in times like these it is even more of a concern. And usually gets left behind as we continue to combat relief on the ground through the distribution of grains, medicines etc.
The Wellbeing Volunteers United, an initiative of Poddar Foundation and a collective of the Rotary district 3141, and Rotary Club of Bombay, with other like-minded people powering this, has over 400 Volunteers, ready to answer calls and uplift the spirit of our citizens.