Debasish Chattopadhyay ; Kolkata , 17 April : The National NGO Smile Foundation plans to reach out to 40,000 families in the next one month, across 14 states to provide psychological counselling needs through tele-calling.
“Suicidal tendencies, fears, and anxieties have gripped the poor and migrant labour populations who have been the worst affected by this sudden decision of lockdown by the government to contain the spread of the deadly COVID-19 virus. With the lockdown being extended, our beneficiaries need us more than ever to be there for them. Through this directly connecting with beneficiaries, we aim to create a sense of security and also help in addressing their fears,” said Santanu Mishra, Co-Founder, and Executive Trustee, Smile Foundation.
National NGO Smile Foundation, which works on primary healthcare has drawn out a plan to reach out to these marginalised populations and helping them fight their fears and anxiety in this period of lockdown through mental health counseling.
The pilot phase of tele-counselling which started a week ago in Howrah, Kolkata, scanned closed to 250 patients daily. In the coming weeks, the state teams consisting of doctors, nurses, and paramedics will be scaling up operations across all the project states covering both villages and urban slums as well predominantly COVID-19 affected states namely Maharashtra, Delhi-NCR, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Jharkhand, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, and Uttar Pradesh.
“Over the next couple of weeks, trained counsellors, doctors, nurses from Smile Foundation will be making make several thousand calls to all beneficiaries within our network and partner organizations to ease out their angst caused by the spread of the deadly corona-virus which has killed more than 300 people and infected upwards of 9000 people across India,” said Satnam Singh, health lead at Smile Foundation.
He added, “Through tele-counseling we are creating awareness on the disease, advising on the importance of hand-washing, and guiding the use of masks among other precautionary measures.”
“We have been reaching out to beneficiaries across Howrah, Kolkata and North 24 Parganas in West Bengal. Through our outreach, we have seen that people are stressed, anxious and worried about the current situation. Our time with them over the phone enables us to understand the gaps that can be filled, and they also get the confidence that we are in this together. From providing ration to informing about Government schemes, we make sure that our session is fruitful and helps reduce undue fears in the community.” said Ruma Ghosh, Community Mobiliser who works at the Kolkata location of Smile Foundation.
Last week, Smile Foundation started its first phase of ration distribution wherein it reached out to 40,000 families across 10 states. Over the coming weeks, the foundation aims to reach out to another 1,10,000 families across 19 states and help them meet their daily nutrition needs, as well as sanitation needs like masks, soaps, sanitary napkins and sanitisers.