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The Government’s mental health helpline, Tele-MANAS, has received over 150,000 calls in the past eight months, with the 18-45 age group making the most calls. Two-thirds of the callers are men, according to data.

Tele-MANAS was launched by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on October 10, 2020, as part of the Government’s response to the mental health crisis caused by the pandemic.

The helpline has over 1,600 trained counsellors who can provide assistance in more than 20 languages. There are currently 42 tele-MANAS cells across the country, accessible through a toll-free number (14416 or 1800-89-14416).

Dr. Swati Ravindran, assistant professor of psychiatry at NIMHANS, emphasized the priority of saving lives and reducing stress for people who are struggling. She also mentioned that counsellors stay on the line with patients in emergency situations until they reach the hospital.

An analysis of call data revealed that most calls came from individuals aged 18-45. Approximately 6.22% of the calls were emergency cases, while 90% were routine. Around 4% of calls from all age groups were pranks.

Common complaints included sadness, sleep disturbances, stress, anxiety, and relationship or familial conflict. Dr. Ravindran stated that calls are categorized based on the complaints received, not for the purpose of diagnosis, in order to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health.

Interestingly, two-thirds of the calls were from men, possibly due to their greater access to phones and privacy outside of their homes.

For routine calls, interventions depend on the caller’s needs and abilities. The helpline can escalate calls to a psychiatrist, arrange for regular counseling, or schedule call-backs at specific times. However, privacy is always a priority, and counsellors never call back without scheduling a time to ensure the caller’s privacy.

Anonna Dutt is a Principal Correspondent who writes primarily on health.

1.5 L queries in 8 months, most callers to Govt mental health helpline aged between 18 and 45

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