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UNDP, TISS to launch tech-assisted counselling for those battling mental distress during pandemic


Lucknow: United Nations Development Program (UNDP) has tied up with Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) to launch a technology-assisted psycho-social counselling service called “iCALL” which will use telephonic, email and chat based mediums to provide counselling services to those battling mental distress brought on by the pandemic.

The service is launched as part of the UNDP’s Covid-19 socio economic response to provide “accessible, affordable and quality counselling” and will be rolled out across thirteen states in India particularly targeting individuals from the marginalised communities. It will also help link them to various social welfare schemes, jobs and livelihood opportunities.

The service intends to cover all those who have been affected personally as well as professionally and may be dealing with sadness, anxiety, loneliness, boredom, anger, uncertainty, hopelessness, helplessness. It also seeks to help those living under the fear of contracting Covid-19 or losing their loved ones to it as well as those who are victims of abuse and violence.

“Medical workers who are fighting the crisis day in and day out are simultaneously also facing stigmatization from the society, even though they are the people who are trying to help. Therefore, we all need to make sure that as a society, we all have access to help when needed. Through this facility, we can help people who are in vulnerable situations including our frontline workers, elderly, women, and other marginalized groups access information related to mental health and psychosocial support”, Shingo Miyamoto, Minister, head of economic section (economic and development), embassy of Japan, said.

“Emotional impact of COVID-1sn’t exist in isolation but is nested in everyday life. COVID-19 has given an opportunity to move mental health care to psychosocial support by adopting the human rights framework while addressing the biggest need of inequities of basic needs and appropriate information. This service will be a great milestone in addressing these unmet needs,” Surinder Jaswal, professor at Tiss, said.

“The iCALL helpline can identify the caller’s location or state and can guide them towards appropriate help as well as link them to social protection schemes. This will not just focus on mental health support but also integrate livelihood issues which is typical of UNDP’s approach of picking up emerging issues as part of its work,” said Shoko Noda, resident representative, UNDP India.

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