The pandemic has accentuated mental health problems in people of all ages and it is imperative today, more than ever, for corporates, government, and academia to prioritise health and mental wellbeing.

To better the access to quality mental health counselling and care services, a National Tele Mental Health Programme will be launched, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said, as she unveiled the Budget for fiscal year 2022-23 in parliament on Tuesday.

This will include a network of 23 tele-mental health centres of excellence, with NIMHANS being the nodal centre and International Institute of Information Technology-Bangalore (IIITB) providing technology support.

Welcoming the move, industry experts say the programme is imperative to control the rising hidden pandemic of mental and emotional health issues and will help remove the stigma around mental health issues as well as make help more accessible to the masses.

“The pandemic underscored the need to re-align priorities and we are happy to see that the government has recognised this and laid out a comprehensive healthcare plan. Setting up the national Tele Mental Health programme will go a long way in initiating the much-needed conversations around mental wellbeing and bring about a healthy change in society,” says Harshvendra Soin, global chief people officer and head of marketing, Tech Mahindra.

Nakshi Satra, founder, Inha Wellness, a holistic and mindful wellness brand, says the Tele-Mental Health Programme with 23 centres will prove to be a great path-breaking initiative for our country.

“There is a lot of emotional wellness required, a lot of suffering to heal to avert the same in the near future.  Tele-call programmes can become the easiest channel of access for people and mark the beginning of revolutionary change inside out.  Tele-call mental health is as effective as in-person guidance for most mental health conditions. One can be sitting in any part of the country to access these services without spending time on traveling and waiting. This would offer immediate attention and resolutions.

Satra says the initiative will allow the country to normalise seeking mental health guidance and the newer age and the existing generations to adapt to holistic wellbeing.

“As the need for mental health will tax very soon on the wellness industry, the tech support for the tele-mental health programme will become the fastest and scalable route for reach and impact,” she adds.

Chayan Mukhopadhyay, co-founder and CEO of HR tech platform Qandle says a lot of companies took measures to ensure the mental wellbeing of their employees, but people are still struggling within themselves.

“Employees usually hesitate in reaching out to their HRs or counsellors for help. The launch of Tele mental health service will be widely accessible and individuals will not hesitate in reaching out for counselling. This will boost the wellbeing and productivity of people, which will eventually lead to a healthy nation and economy. This announcement highlights how we are a forward moving nation,” he added.

Calling it a “very positive move”, Sonica Aron, founder and managing partner of HR consulting firm Marching Sheep, says in a country where mental health has been a taboo subject for very long, the government taking steps to normalise and help citizens deal with it will help remove the stigma around mental health issues as well as make help more accessible to the masses.

“The government’s initiative towards mental health support comes as a progressive move especially with regards to a subject that is not talked about enough in mainstream politics and finance.  Enabling easy access to mental health counselling via the National Tele Mental Health Programme is the need of the hour and a fabulous win for mental health in India. It is also a clear indicator to organisations across the country to take note and focus on furthering initiatives toward employee mental health and wellness,” adds Saransh Garg, CEO and co-founder, Nova Benefits, a one stop tech platform that helps companies improve employee wellbeing through daily fitness, mental health counselling and wellness programmes.

Saurabh Saxena, Intuit India site leader and vice president, product development, says the fact that the government has created a platform to address mental health through the national tele mental health program is one step further in making India an inclusive nation focused on well-being and positive living.  “In addition to the government’s effort, it is also the onus on companies and leaders to offer a culture where people can prioritize their wellbeing and be offered help when needed,” he adds

“With numerous conversations around mental health, and the increase in digital fatigue and possible burnout, amongst the working population, we are very glad to see the government launching a national tele mental health program. This shows the advancements we have made as a country, and we are open to talking about important subjects like mental health, which had hitherto not come to the fore. We as leaders also need to make the conscious effort to craft initiatives that cater to our employee’s mental health and growth, personally and professionally,” says Sahil Mathur, CHRO,  InMobi Group.

Ashley Dsilva, head, health solutions, Aon India Insurance Brokers Private Limited feels creating a tele-mental health infrastructure at scale including the counselling initiative will improve visibility for mental health issues and support primary care access for mental health which is largely still not insured today.

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