World Health Partners (WHP), a leading public health organization, shared key learnings and insights from its 18-month long intervention (Comprehensively Addressing Mental Issues during COVID-19 pandemic) on mental health and gender-based violence, across eight districts of Jharkhand. The project was supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). It was implemented with technical support from Central Institute of Psychiatry (CIP) and Ranchi Institute of Neuro-Psychiatry & Allied Sciences (RINPAS), the two leading mental health institutes in the state.
The project (Comprehensively Addressing Mental Issues during COVID-19 pandemic) was implemented from June 2021- December 2022 in 08 districts across the state with the objective to provide early screening, referral and social security linkages to COVID-19 and gender-based violence affected individuals and families. These eight districts are: Ranchi, East Singhbhum, West Singhbhum, Ramgarh, Saraikela, Dumka, Simdega and Khunti.
“The COVID-19 pandemic transformed our lives forever. With innumerable lives lost, job loss, financial insecurity, and losing out on activities and social connections, keeping one’s mental-physical balance becomes hard. These extraordinary challenges also brought us opportunity to work directly with individuals and their family members. Through our intervention we helped unburden their woes, jointly,” said Prachi Shukla, Country Director, World Health Partners. “The project has seen far reaching impact by using people on ground and technology backed call center which screened and counselled more than 70,000 COVID patients in Jharkhand. This model can easily be scaled by state governments given its flexibility and use of low-cost technology.”
Under the project, in addition to COVID-19 patients, extremely vulnerable groups like transgender, commercial sex workers and transgender communities were also provided MH support services
Key highlights of the Project:
· The project reached out to more than 1,50,000 people in Jharkhand using the Patient Health Questionnaire-4 (PHQ-4) screening tool to assess their mental health
· During the project duration, WHP’s tele-health platform received more than 12,000 calls for mental health support from various parts of Jharkhand
· 01 in every 10 women and 14 men were found to be having mental health issues. Among women, housewives had the highest prevalence of mental health issues.
· In urban areas 01 in every 11 individuals and in rural 01 in every 14 individuals were found with mental health issues.
· 90% of MH affected COVID-19 patients who called on WHP’s helpline no. had mild mental health issues (anxiety and depression) while 93% MH affected COVID-19 patients showed anxiety and depression symptoms at the household level screening
· 81% persons with mild mental health issues were found to be normal after completing the tele-counselling sessions
· WHP also facilitated referral services for those in need of institutional care. More than 500 persons for mental health, gender-based violence and substance use disorder, were referred for institutional care
· During the project, WHP promoted access and linkages to various social security schemes for the most affected. More than 150 beneficiaries directly benefited with these linkages. More than INR 08 lakh was deposited in the bank accounts of COVID affected people as part of the ex-gratia assistance provisions of the state govt.
Insights from the project show that tele-medicine has been increasingly acknowledged as a viable system to widen access to provide mental health care and support. World Health Partners’ strong community presence together with recent government initiatives like Tele-MANAS can accelerate a positive momentum in care seeking behaviour and building resilient mental health support systems.