Bhopal (Agenzia Fides) - An interreligious group in central India offers free advice to people affected by the coronavirus or who are in need due to the lockdown underway due to Covid-19. As Father Anand Muttungal reports to Agenzia Fides, the "Sarv Dharam Sadbhavna Manch" ("Forum of religious communion") has created a special group of professionals and consultants who offer free service. "The World Health Organization has invited the world to pay time and attention to those affected, otherwise new problems for society could arise, at a psychological stability level", notes Fr. Muttungal, President of the Forum, which includes people of Christian, Hindu, Muslim and Sikh religion.
He continues: "In general Indian society cares very little about mental health. Many people hide their mental problems from society. We are offering this service to people who have difficulty managing the situation, due to the anxiety and fear of the Coronavirus disease. We are working to prepare people to face any situation that comes their way".
"For the time being, we have started with a team of 17 psychologists, sociologists, psychiatrists. In the coming days, we will begin to provide counseling for the entire state of Madhya Pradesh. People from any part of the country can contact us for help", reports a forum member, L. S. Herdenia. People use the teleconference to share their problems. Privacy and confidentiality are strictly guaranteed.
Dr Jamal Akhtar, Team member says, "Anyone with Coronavirus can seek help and support". All affected people can learn to cope better with the treatment period, managing fear and anxiety. "The main concern for all of us is to address people's mental problems to help everyone cope with this situation". says Akhtar.
Also in Goa, in West India, a group of Jesuits has started a work of "long distance couseling", through online teleconference, for those who are in difficulty during the lockdown. "For most people, living indoors for such a long time is a completely new experience, which can lead to some disorientation, frustration or a feeling of helplessness", explains to Fides Jesuit father Anderson Fernandes, one of the counselors. Fr. Fernandes, at the head of the Panaji-based Historical Research Center, says he has at least six talks a day, with people from various parts of India.
The team of 14 priests from the province of Goa provide psychological support and spiritual comfort, in several languages, such as English, Kannada, Konkani, Marathi and Tamil. "The priests involved have basic training in psychological counseling and have volunteered to dedicate their time during this period of crisis", explains Father Fernandes. Father Augustine Pushparaj, one of the counselors, says that "the sudden lockdown has confined people to their homes and many of them are teetering, in the throes of different types of uncertainty. We listen to them patiently and try to help them solve their problems", he adds.
A similar assistance and counseling project was launched by the Catholic Health Association of India, based in Secunderabad, in the state of Telangana.
India has been experiencing the lockdown imposed by the government since March 24, which could also be prolonged, to contain the coronavirus pandemic. (SD-PA) (Agenzia Fides, 17/4/2020)