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By PTI
NEW DELHI: A number of associations of doctors and psychiatrists from around the world have joined hands to launch a dedicated helpline for healthcare workers to address stress, depression and other psychological issues faced by them during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In an official statement issued on Saturday, the Global Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (GAPIO), one of the primary partners behind the initiative, said the move was particularly important as the second wave of the pandemic in the country has affected doctors, nurses and others in the sector in a big way.

This has led to significant challenges, with medical, nursing and allied healthcare workers experiencing stress, depression and distress while discharging their duties towards patient care, the GAPIO said in the statement.

Ensuring mental wellbeing of healthcare workers is of prime importance, and GAPIO and Indian Psychiatric Society (IPS), along with other collaborating partners have launched a helpline for HCWs facing mental health issues to help them address it, said.

Other partners include, American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI), the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (BAPIO), the Canada India Network Society (CINS) and the British Indian Psychiatric Association (BIPA), the statement said.

Announcing the launch, Dr. Prathap C Reddy, Chairman, Apollo Hospitals Group and Founder President, GAPIO said, “This is a very challenging and difficult time.

An exponential rise in the cases of anxiety, post-traumatic stress and depression amongst healthcare and frontline workers has been seen.

With the support of psychiatrists, clinical psychologists and other mental health professionals, the mental health needs of HCWs needs to be addressed”.

The helpline, it is hoped, will ameliorate the stress and challenges that HCW’s are facing amid this unprecedented crisis, he said.

Dr. Anupam Sibal, President GAPIO, said, “Peer support sessions will be available to provide support.

There will also be an opportunity for individual sessions and referrals, where needed, to be organised”.

In May, when the second wave was at its height, doctors and nurses had faced “nightmare in wards” seeing their patients die in large numbers.

Prolonged duty shifts, watching patients die every day or family members pleading to save their lives, doctors on Covid duty in Delhi, had then opened up about their experiences and said they went through unimaginable mental agony during the worst phase of the second wave of the pandemic.

From government hospitals to private facilities, the calamitous second wave in Delhi had not only strained healthcare infrastructure to its limits, but also affected the physical and psychological well-being of doctors and other healthcare workers.

“The United States has passed through a similar situation which India is facing today. It was difficult for American doctors and other HCWs who faced extreme work pressure, stress and fear. Our learnings from the American experience will help support this helpline,” said Dr. Sudhakar Jonnalagadda, president, AAPI. Dr. Gautam Saha, president of IPS, assured that psychiatrists from India will do everything possible to put back their mental health to a level as existed before the declaration of COVID-19 pandemic.

He added that this mental helpline will offer free online services to medical and allied healthcare workers.