A number of associations of doctors and psychiatrists from around the globe have joined hands to launch a dedicated helpline for healthcare workers to address stress, depression and other psychological issues faced by them during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In an official statement issued on Saturday, the Global Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (GAPIO) and one of the primary partners behind the initiative, said that the move was particularly important as the second wave of the pandemic in the country has affected doctors, nurses and others in the sector in a huge way.
The GAPIO in a statement said that it has led to significant challenges, with medical, nursing and associated healthcare workers experiencing stress, depression and distress while discharging their duties towards patient care.
It said, the prime importance currently is ensuring the mental health and wellbeing of the healthcare workers and GAPIO and Indian Psychiatric Society (IPS), along with other collaborating partners have launched a helpline for HCWs facing mental health issues to help them address it.
The statement said, other partners include, American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI), the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (BAPIO), the Canada India Network Society (CINS) and the British Indian Psychiatric Association (BIPA).
Announcing the launch, Dr. Prathap C Reddy, Chairman, Apollo Hospitals Group and Founder President, GAPIO said, “This is a very challenging and difficult time. An exponential rise in the cases of anxiety, post-traumatic stress and depression amongst healthcare and frontline workers has been seen. With the support of psychiatrists, clinical psychologists and other mental health professionals, the mental health needs of HCWs needs to be addressed”.
The helpline, it is hoped, will ameliorate the stress and challenges that HCW’s are facing amid this unprecedented crisis, he said.
Dr. Anupam Sibal, President GAPIO, said, “Peer support sessions will be available to provide support. There will also be an opportunity for individual sessions and referrals, where needed, to be organised”.
When the second wave of Covid-19 was at its peak in the month of May, the doctors and nurses had faced “nightmare in wards” witnessing their patients die in large numbers.
The doctors on Covid duty in Delhi had then opened up about their experiences after prolonged duty shifts, watching patients die every day or family members pleading to save their lives, they said they went through unimaginable mental distress during the worst phase of the second wave of the pandemic, which they never experienced before.
From government hospitals to private facilities, the calamitous second wave in Delhi had not only strained healthcare infrastructure to its limits, but also affected the physical and psychological well-being of doctors and other healthcare workers.
“The United States has passed through a similar situation which India is facing today. It was difficult for American doctors and other HCWs who faced extreme work pressure, stress and fear. Our learnings from the American experience will help support this helpline,” said Dr. Sudhakar Jonnalagadda, president, AAPI.
Dr. Gautam Saha, president of IPS, assured that psychiatrists from India will do everything possible to put back their mental health to a level as existed before the declaration of COVID-19 pandemic.
He added that this mental helpline will offer free online services to medical and allied healthcare workers