Creating safe spaces for sharing & connection during the COVID-19 crisis
Along with its severe effects on physical health, the COVID-19 pandemic has a debilitating impact on the mental health and wellbeing of individuals, families, and the larger ecosystem.
Staying isolated, mortal fear of contracting an illness, unprecedented interruptions to daily routines, financial insecurity, loneliness, loss of control, uncertainty, and feeling stifled are but some of the factors that can cause discomfort & anxiety. A combination of these factors, as is being experienced by us all currently, can be debilitating, and significantly impair psychological functioning and mental health. Further, anxiety experienced during this period can worsen symptoms for individuals with existing mental health conditions.
The need to connect with one another is urgent and immediate. Offering spaces for individuals to share their experiences, connect, vent, and problem solve together will provide solace and comfort in an otherwise disconnected & disturbing period. We have initiated a toll free telephonic connect line” Sumunum Connect. Connect is aimed at offering psychosocial support for emotional needs. It offers a space for callers to vent, share, and collaboratively problem solve any concerns / anxieties they may be facing.
Sumunum Connect : Service Offerings:
Accessible: Sumunum Connect is a free, centralised toll free, multi-lingual, emotional health and wellbeing service. Operational from 11 am - 11pm. Soon to be 24x7
Tackling complex mental health needs: Connect will serve as a sounding board. It will offer problem solving and handholding support to manage daily struggles & provide crisis intervention services to help people navigate acute mental health needs.
Follow up services: Connect maintains a call registry, and for people who require more additional support, will ensure consistent follow up & hand holding as required.
Specialist call back services: For individuals who have diagnosed mental health conditions, who are unable to access their current care providers, Connect will offer a specialist call back service from a psychiatrist / relevant mental health professional to provide technical support.
Access to self-care and self-management resources: Specialised self-care and self-management resources tailor-made to suit the situation of this pandemic will be disseminated to callers through the Sumunum Connect website, as emailers, and as WhatsApp fliers.
Access to guided arts based and mindfulness based interventions: Connect will offer all callers access to guided arts based & mindfulness based interventions
Referral services: Sumunum also liaises with a range of organisations, and can provide referrals for other specific needs. For instance, legal aid, domestic violence support, child support etc.
Insight - research & documentation: A critical analysis of the calls received, and study of data such as reasons for reaching out, geographical locations, areas of concern, nature of engagement etc will be conducted.
Impact measurement: To measure efficacy and effectiveness of the helpline all data collected will be analysed by trained researchers using qualitative and quantitative tools and statistical measures.
Who we have reached out to so far:
* All names have been changed to protect confidentiality
1. Revathy is a single parent, who lost her husband several years ago, and has been taking care of her children and family entirely by herself. When the covid-19 pandemic hit, she was able to hold things together, until she tested positive herself. She was immediately admitted to a hospital, quarantined & separated from her family.
â€œWhat will happen to me?â€ â€œIf something happens to me, what will happen to my children?â€ â€” these thoughts were extremely overwhelming for her, and she began to feel highly anxious and helpless. With a hope for support, she called Sumunum Connect. One of our volunteers worked with her by holding space for her emotions, thus enabling sharing & venting. They helped her work through her immediate anxiety, and helped manage it using someg grounding techniques. Our team also offered follow-up support by sharing additional self care resources & techniques focused on anxiety reduction.
2. Anand is a young adult & college student. As the country began to move into a lockdown, his college immediately shut. Like other young students, he had to adapt to several sudden changes in his routine & lifestyle. Class schedules & mediums had changed, and the boundaries between work and home had blurred.
Talk of covid-19 seemed to be present all around, and he began feeling increasingly worried and anxious about the situation. He had been experiencing some trouble sleeping for around a year, sharply intensified now by the disruptions in routine & his anxiety.
With a hope for support, he called Sumunum Connect. Our volunteer walked with him through his challenges, offered support towards handling the disruptions in routine, the anxiety, and towards strengthening sleep schedules.
3. Supriya is a young mother with a child, trying to support herself, her child, her brother & her ageing parents. Having separated from her husband after years of intense conflict, she was on the lookout for jobs, when the covid-19 pandemic hit. She needed to sustain her childs education, tend to her parentsâ€™ flailing health & support her brother, just out of college.
With no sign of the lockdown ending, a hugely affected job market & a frustrated child struggling to adapt to changing routines at home ” she did not know where to go, and was desperate for help.
Our volunteer stood by Supriya and worked with her to identify and plan immediate steps of actions, including â€” referrals to legal support with regard to the conflict with her husband, working around parenting challenges in the covid-19 context, and strengthening self-care practices.
Funds received will be directed towards the following:
Like most other helplines operationalised globally, Sumunum Connect is also volunteer run. Resources are used for the recurring operational costs of the toll free line, such that it remains free for callers.
We are working towards 24x7 Operationalisation - We are currently operational for 12 hours a day, but would like to run through the day to enable greater reach and support. Funds will be used for the operational costs of the toll free number.
Resource Material: Creation of mental health resource kits to handle challenges and manage crises. Kits on the following are being prepared: Managing anxiety / Sleep Hygiene / Daily resources for depression / conflict resolution / understanding and managing emotions / tackling thoughts of self harm.