From facing loneliness in COVID-19 isolation ward to exhibiting aggressive behavior after parents contracted the virus, over 1,000 children and parents have reached out to government helpline seeking help.
With an objective of providing psychological first-aid and emotional support to children affected during the pandemic, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR)is providing tele-counseling to children through SAMVEDNA(Sensitising Action on Mental Health Vulnerability through Emotional Development and Necessary Acceptance) - a toll-free helpline launched to provide psycho-social mental support for affected children.
According to Women and Child Development Ministry officials, redressal of 1,009 complaints have been done between September 2020 to May 7, 2021.
In a case from a COVID-19 isolation center in Aurangabad, a 15-year-old child expressed frustration over not getting enough love from parents due to more siblings and called up to talk about her parents' pressure of getting her married off early.
The counselor spoke to the child and her parents and suggested encouraging her to focus on academics. In another case, parent of a six-year-old child in Kanpur called to discuss the aggressive behavior of their child who was lodged in an isolation center after contracting the virus.
The counselor suggested that the child engages in different activities like narrating stories or playing with toys. It was found that as the parents were keeping to themselves after the family tested positive, the child was feeling lonely and exhibiting aggressive behavior.
A 17-year-old boy from Madhya Pradesh's Singrauli isolation center called up and talked about being scared of loneliness. The counselor advised him to spend time engaging in activities he is interested in and making a regular routine to get away from boredom.
This tele-counseling service is available on a toll-free number 1800-121-2830 from Monday to Saturday from 10 am to 1 pm and 3 pm to 8 pm and is exclusively for children who are willing to talk and are in need of counseling. When a child/caretaker/parent dials SAMVEDNA, they get to speak to a professional counselor in a safe environment. Tele-counselling is provided to children under three categories: children who are in quarantine/isolation/COVID care centers, children who have COVID positive parents or family members, and children who have lost their parents due to the pandemic.
This service caters to children from all over India in various regional languages like Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Oriya, Marathi, Gujarati, Bengali, the Women and Child Development Ministry said.
This service was launched in September 2020 and aims to support children in the difficult times of COVID-19 pandemic.