Srinagar: Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (IMHANS), Kashmir, has become the first medical facility in the country to start a community outreach programme to provide psychiatric counseling to Covid survivors.
Named as “Kath Bath” the psychosocial programme commencing from March 24, aims to reach out to every family who witnessed a death due to the virus and assess their mental health needs along with proper treatment.
Principal Government Medical College, Srinagar Dr. Samia Rashid said they have a list of all Covid deaths.
“But we have designed this programme as voluntary so that people avail this service without shame and stigma. This programme will help us explore hidden morbidity of mental health in high-risk populations and help us in mitigating suffering,” Dr. Samia said.
Dr. Arshid Hussain, Professor of Psychiatry at IMHANS, Kashmir said Covid-19 undoubtedly left behind a lot of unresolved trauma and grief in a large number of families in Kashmir.
“While many could not mourn the loss of their loved ones due to the stigma, a lot of sole bread earners in the family lost their jobs and are battling an economic crisis. Some children are still fearful of getting separated from their loved ones,” Dr. Arshid said.
He noted that the programme aims to reach such high-risk groups. “Most of the time, people with high mental health needs don’t show up fearing they will be stigmatized. Through this programme, we shall send our clinical psychologists and mental health professionals to them so that they can talk in non-formal settings and help them resolve grief and bypass the stigma they have faced during the Covid deaths,” Dr. Arshid said.
The team comprises a psychiatrist, clinical psychologist, counselor, social worker (from the child guidance team for assessment of children).
“Even though we have a complete list of the affected families, we want this programme to be voluntary. Rather, by forcing our ways into them, they can reach out to us by choosing a timing that they are comfortable with,” he said.
The programme will be initiated in Srinagar and gradually expanded to other districts. “Also, there are governmental and non-governmental organizations for people who’ve had Covid deaths and Covid related economic deprivation. Through this initiative, we can get secondary data and link such families with the mentioned organizations,” he said.
Dr. Mohammad Maqbool Dar, HOD, Psychiatry, Government Medical College said the idea is to make mental healthcare more accessible.
“Further, our trained mental health professionals will provide the required treatment and psycho-social support in the community,” Dr. Maqbool said.