Ranchi, July 31: A young homemaker is worried about her husband’s alcoholism. A schoolboy is depressed about his marks. A villager wants to know the government schemes his pregnant wife is entitled to.
They all call up one number — 104.
The non-emergency dial-up service — Chikitsa Salah or Health Information Helpline — that started in Jharkhand in March this year as a collaboration between the state government and Health Management Research Institute (HMRI), Hyderabad, is fast gaining popularity as a reliable phone-a-friend.
Over 100 dedicated counsellors and medical officers are available to receive calls from persons of all age groups. And what’s most important, once the caller gets a registration number, he or she can refer to it for any number of calls free of cost.
“Youngsters or professionals or villagers, they all find us reliable and quick advisers in the case of any health-related problem. We troubleshoot issues ranging from depression to addiction and even advise preventive steps against rural epidemics,” said a tele-counsellor.
“We receive a daily average of 300-400 calls not only from Ranchi city but rural pockets. Sahiyas and social organisations have done a good job of popularising number 104.”
The only thing they are most particular is about confidentiality.
“We don’t reveal where our office is situated nor our identities. An objective distance is needed between the caller and the listener, who is often in a very anxious state of mind,” the medical officer added.
Citing an instance, he said: “A distraught homemaker called up, saying she was going out of her mind due to her husband’s alcoholism and she did not know whom to turn to. I advised her to keep her cool, earn his trust by maintaining cordial relations with him and persuade him to go to CIP or Rinpas de-addiction centres.”
Another tele-counsellor said lifestyle diseases were on the rise.
“Sedentary lifestyles, increasing work-related stress and a fast food culture are pushing cases of high BP, diabetes, cardiovascular and chronic respiratory diseases.”
He added that in villages, ignorance about available welfare schemes was a major issue. “And aware villagers being denied their entitled health benefits is not uncommon either. Many lodge complaints with us when they are refused free medical assistance. Then, we take the help of health link workers sahiyas to deal with the issue,” he said.
A tenth grader of DAV Public School, Bariatu, Mihir Srivastawa said the number came as a boon at a time he was feeling very low.
“I called up the helpline when I was depressed due to my low scores in English and maths class tests. Three sessions of counselling later, I was feeling and behaving positively,” he said.
The helpline service functions in Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Assam, Andhra Pradesh, among other states.