The latest National Mental Health Survey notes that despite huge demand for mental health care services, the available mental health resources in terms of infrastructure and trained mental health professionals are severely deficient even as per the conservative international norms (e.g., at least one psychiatrist per lakh of population.
Close to 60 to 70 million people in the country suffer from common and severe mental disorders. India has the highest suicide rate in the South-East Asian region, according to the World Health Organization’s latest report over 2.6 lakh cases of suicide in a year. WHO statistics say the average suicide rate in India is 12.7 for every lakh people.
For accelerating the decline in Mental health issues, it is important to identify, track and manage the peoples with mental health symptoms and simultaneously improve mental health care.
To cater to this problem, The National Tele Mental Health Programme Tele MANAS was launched in India by Ministry of Health and Family welfare in association with NIMHANS Bangaluru in the month of November 2022. In the UT of J&K Tele MANAS was officially launched by Hon’ble LG J&K on 4th November 2022 which envisages to work as a comprehensive, integrated and inclusive 24X7 tele-mental health facility with the aim to provide universal access to equitable, accessible, affordable and quality mental health care through 24X7 tele-mental health counselling services.
One Tele Manas UT level Cell and one Mentoring Institute was established at IMHANS, Psychiatric Diseases Hospital, GMC Srinagar, which is providing services 24*7 to the people of J&K.
Till now More than 35000 calls have been received and many distress situations/ suicides have been averted.
I was given the task of being the Program Manager for Tele MANAS in Jammu and Kashmir and a lot of sceptics as usual said it will not work, we have so many Online/Tele platforms and this will be just another one.
After a comprehensive Communication Strategy, massive IEC, Involving Social, Print and Electronic Media, Conducting Seminars and Workshops in leading Educational Institutions We became NO 1 UT in the Country and were widely appreciated and Awarded by Ministry even NIMHANS the No 1 Mental health Apex Institution of the country was all praise but this Article of mine is not about only Tele manas its about something else .
Conceptualizing IST Tele Manas Chat Bot of Country
The young people in the age group of 10-24 yr in India constitute one of the precious resources of India characterized by growth and development and is a phase of vulnerability often influenced by several intrinsic and extrinsic factors that affect their health and safety. Nearly 10-30 per cent of young people suffer from health impacting behaviors and conditions that need urgent attention of policy makers and public health professionals.
Nutritional disorders (both malnutrition and over-nutrition), tobacco use, harmful alcohol use, other substance use/Drugs, high risk sexual behaviors, stress, common mental disorders, and injuries (road traffic injuries, suicides, violence of different types) specifically affect this population and have long lasting impact
One day during a routine review of Tele Manas, me and my Ex MD NHM came with the idea of creating something that could be more easily perceived and easily accessible to the current text and tech savvy younger generation of J&K. We started the work of chat bot. MD was so supportive and in collaboration with GIZ India and in consultation with HOD Psychiatry, Nodal Officer IMHANS we finally developed the fist chat bot of the country.
Tele MANAS CHATBOT was launched in J&K on 5th July 2023 by Hon’ble LG, UT of J&K. It was a huge Buzz with all national and local media houses terming it one of its kind in the entire country.
Let me tell you something about the CHATBOT, once the user accesses the CHAT BOT on WhatsApp, there is an interface which assists the user regarding the various issues pertaining to mental health. The 6 responses incorporated in the Tele MANAS CHATBOT are the frequent reasons for which the beneficiaries commonly sought help on TELE MANAS Helpline and these responses are:
•Feeling sad or low
•Physical intimacy issues
On clicking upon any of the issue, there are further a set of questions which help in identifying the underlying cause. In case of urgent issues related to suicidal thoughts, the user is immediately directly directed to consult a psychiatrist. It also provides solutions/suggestions and ways (like Meditation, Yoga and Breathing Exercises) to deal with the issues.
In case the user is not satisfied with the pre-fabricated set of questions and suggestions, he/she has an option for chatting with the counsellor or calling directly on the Tele MANAS Cell and speaking to the counsellor regarding the issues. Depending on the severity of the issues of the individual, call is forwarded to the counselor/psychologist/psychiatrist.
Link for Chatbot: https://wa.me/919797600601?text=/telemanas
Whatsapp No: 9797600601
The writer is Post Graduate in Public Health Management and has worked in the capacity of State Immunization Officer J&K, OSD to Director Health Services Kmr (Ex DNO /Program Manager Mental health NHM J&K, (Currently at DHSK)