Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit inaugurates mental health helpline

PremBabu Sharma

The Vandrevala Foundation, Mental Health Initiative-India which runs a 24×7 Mental Health Helpline in the country, announced today the launch of its helpline operations in New Delhi in association with The Emmanuel Hospital Association, St. Stephen’s Hospital and the Mar Thoma Church. This launch of the helpline in Delhi is part of the Foundation’s vision to reach out and provide medical assistance to a large number of patients, specially the underprivileged who need help.The Emmanuel Hospital Association which has more than 20 hospitals over North and North East India along with many community health care initiatives joined hands with St. Stephen’s Hospital, the premier institution in the city devoted to healthcare of all strata of people and the Mar Thoma Church to be actively involved in anti-stigma and awareness campaigns.

The Helpline 1860 266 2345 was inaugurated by Smt. Sheila Dikshit, Hon’ble Chief Minister of Delhi dedicating it to the service of Delhi and North India.Dr. Arun John – Executive Vice President, Vandrevala Foundation said, “The Delhi helpline is part of our mission to provide assistance to a larger number of patients as statistics show that the capital city requires this initiative. Mind is the most essential asset of our country and protecting it is essential. In mental health often people know they need help but do not know where to get it. We intend to fill this void through the helpline.”

He added, “The Foundation has a simple philosophy of providing medical assistance and counselling in the area of mental health to anyone cutting across all strata of society. We along with our partners work towards creating awareness about mental health and removing mindsets and stigmas associated with mental ailments.”In August 2009, the Foundation started its Mental Health Initiative-India providing free help and support to people suffering from mental distress of any form, through its professionally run 24×7 helpline in Mumbai (022–25706000 / 1860 266 2345).

The Cyrus and Priya Vandrevala Foundation is a charitable social enterprise that aims to make a sustainable difference for those in need. The Vandrevala Foundation is focusing on a number of causes, including mental health, dyslexia and multiple sclerosis. Cyrus Vandrevala and Priya Hiranandani-Vandrevala established their Foundation as a vehicle for their philanthropic activities.Dr. Mathew Santhosh Thomas – Executive Director, Emmanuel Hospital Association said, “This facility will be of great help to many in Delhi and NCR, and has the potential of expanding into a service which could cater to other states of North and North East India. With Mental health burden increasing in India, this facility has come up at the right time.”

Dr. Sudhir Joseph – Director, St. Stephen’s Hospital added, “There is a very great need for Counselling and Psychiatric services in our city. With all the other ailments, mental illnesses take a back seat. St. Stephen’s Hospital is happy to be a partner in this new venture. Our aim has been to reach out always to the marginalized, to venture into areas where facilities are poor and greatly needed. We hope that the new helpline will act as a portal of assistance to not just the citizens of Delhi but also those in the neighbouring districts.

He added, “It is only at times of exams, when students resort to desperate measures that the extreme stresses of modern day living come into the limelight. However, these are only a very small fraction of those requiring help. Most people don’t know whom to turn to. For many, a counselling session in all that is required. They only need a little insight and guidance to help them. For those who require more intensive or prolonged therapy, the services of a Psychiatrist are essential.”

His Grace, the Rt. Rev. Dr. Abraham Mar Paulos, Diocesan Bishop of the Mar Thoma Church said, “Mental and behavioural problems are increasing part of the health problems the world over and in India too. However the helplessness of the past has been replaced by considerable hope through various means and mechanism. Early and effective treatment is essential for better recovery. We are committed to reducing the suffering caused by mental ill health and to help us all lead mentally healthier lives. It is our prayer that this venture will help people to survive, recover from and prevent mental health problems.”

Speaking at the occasion, Dr. Ashwani Kumar – President, Delhi Psychiatry Society said, “We are very pleased to note that the services of a 24×7 national mental health helpline are being introduced in Delhi. This has been a long-standing need, and will improve psychiatric services to the 165 lakh citizens of the state. The helpline is being started by a Delhi-based consortium of concerned agencies which include Emmanuel Hospital Association, St. Stephen’s Hospital and the Mar Thoma Church in collaboration with the Vandrevala Foundation which already runs a 24×7 helpline in Mumbai. The services would be offered free of charge. I offer all help and support to this venture and wish it every success.”

 The personnel manning the helpline are qualified psychologists who have undergone professional training. Calls are escalated to highly qualified and trained psychiatrists depending on their severity. The Foundation not only provides mental counseling through its helpline but it also provides crisis intervention face to face counseling for cases which need special attention. The helpline goes an extra mile by helping these individuals by calling back those who have recently undergone an extremely stressful episode as well as sought help in acute distress by calling them back to know about their well being and fortify their sagging morale. Vandrevala Foundation’s helpline at Mumbai, which has handled more than 16,500 calls since its inception, is well connected with various government bodies, panel of renowned psychiatrists, doctors, mental healthcare facilities, hospitals, ambulance services, police stations and NGOs to tackle an emergency including suicide callers. The Foundation would also be involved in major Awareness and Anti-stigma programs.