As India plunged into a lockdown like many other countries, the “new normal” threw everyone into a world of uncertainty and fear. To reach out to people, students at Amrita University and volunteers of the Mata Amritanandamayi Math started a telephone helpline to stay connected. The Amrita COVID-19 Mental Health Helpline began taking calls on April 11, 2020, and since it has become a lifeline for many.
Amrita Helpline’s volunteers are Master in Social Work university students and the residents of Amma’s Amritapuri Ashram, who can support callers in multiple languages, including Malayalam, Telugu, Tamil, Tulu, Hindi, Marathi, and English.
The Helpline, though focusing primarily on emotional struggles, handles a wide range of callers with varied concerns. For callers in need of more specific professional support, the Amrita Helpline functions in collaboration with local psychologists, Amritapuri Ashram doctors, and Amrita Hospital’s Psychology and Psychiatry Department doctors. This allows, for example, a caller expressing a fear of having COVID-19 symptoms to be immediately connected to a physician for consultation.
In the first 10 days of Amrita Helpline’s operations, more than 500 calls were received with around 150 related to mental health issues.