Tele-Mental health: When technology meets psychosocial wellbeing needs

During this COVID-19 pandemic, tele mental health service has offered many opportunities, including improvement of the individuals’ experience, increased mental health care access, and reduction of health care costs. Online clinical supervision from psychologists and psychiatrist to local health professionals has helped to manage most of the mental health issues at the community level.

‘I heard that a man was running towards Daraudi River to dive and end his life. I immediately ran towards the river, pulled him from the bank of the river and took him directly to my health post. He agreed to discuss the matter with a professional in a video call. I arranged a video call with an expert and managed the case from here. I had never believed that mental problems are treated and I could do that all myself!’,

says Lalita Gurung, In-charge of Gankhu Health Post, Gorkha. She has already dealt with 7 cases of suicidal ideation and attempts during this lockdown. During this period, she has provided mental health service and counseling to more than 100 individuals under clinical supervision from KOSHISH.

Lalita has been working in health sector from 2 decades. 11 years ago, she received a capacity building training related with mental health but she could not practice her learning and skills because nobody seek mental health services from a local health post. Last year, she participated a six days training on mental health and psychosocial wellbeing provided by KOSHISH. After the training, she is regularly receiving online clinical supervision and mentoring from senior consultants.

As many individuals are currently experiencing increased levels of stress, anxiety and depression, mental health services must continue to prevent further decompensation and avoid potential consequences like relapse of previous mental health problems, suicidal thoughts and attempts and other severe problems in the face of a pandemic that strains health care resources.

Binita Tamang, In-charge of Khudi Health Post, Lamjung, was surprised to meet many individuals seeking mental health services from her health post during this lockdown. Binita provided mental health treatment to more than 70 individuals in this period. She says, ‘There are many hidden cases of mental health problem in the community and were always unreported before. When people heard that mental health services are available in Khudi Health Post, many of them did not trust us at first. Awareness plays a vital role in this matter.’

Globally, mental health problems are a growing concern. Unfortunately, there are not enough mental health professionals to help every case. Training other

healthcare providers in mental health topics is a possibility; yet, being dependent on face-to-face training alone is not scalable. The use of technology could be an important strategy to reach effective mental health care and address disparities in services.

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