South India now has its first addiction-resolving services online
The National Institute of Mental Health and Sciences (NIMHANS) launched a virtual network to render psychiatric help with regard to cases of tobacco addiction. Raghu, a psychiatric social worker in the Centre of addiction in NIMHANS highlighted the nature of the service.
“National Tobacco Quitline Services (NTQLS) was launched in September 2018 and offers free online counselling,” Raghu explained that a potential addict who wishes to quick could dial a toll-free number (1800-11-2356) and attain online counselling. “If the level of dependence is high, the patient could be asked to avail out-patient services. Chewing gum and medicines would be provided to the patients,” Raghu noted.
On the occasion of World Science Day, there are stalls put up explaining the kind of services NIMHANS offers. Many have the misconception that NIMHANS offers only psychiatric services. We are displaying the other services that we also offer.”
“We are displaying the projects that we are conducting at a community level, at an educational level, as well as the number of research projects being carried out, and on how the public could contribute to these projects along with the National tobacco control service.”
“Apart from this, we have launched a six-month course termed as ‘National Digital Academy’ for prospective addicts on a weekly basis. “ On Tuesdays, dependence cases are presented between 2 and 3 p.m. Inputs can be given online from around the country on the kind of interventions offered. .”
Raghu believes that this programme would open doors for prospective addicts. “NIMHANS has a limited reach. We can always work with the community around us. It will take two years for a prospective addict to realize that the problem is psychological. Hence, we are meeting patients at their level. For example, we use WhatsApp as a medium of transmitting information.”
According to Sudarshan Hegde, a Psychologist himself and one of the supervisors of National Tobacco Quit Line Service (NTQLS), “there are four centres in the country. In Mumbai it is under Tata Memorial Centre, Vallabhbhai Patel Chest Institute, New Delhi, Bharucha Hospital in Guwahati and NIMHANS in Bengaluru. Seven of the Southern Indian states are covered under NIMHANS and 14 districts in Karnataka have tobacco cessation centres.
Services provided are at two levels: telephonic counselling and referral services. More than 2,000people call us for assistance and people who work as the customer service representatives are either psychologists or psychiatric social workers. This is the first of its kind in South India and another major factor is that Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India has asked NIMHANS to put their customer service toll-free number at the back of the cigarette packs sold in the state – so that people addicted to tobacco can seek help as easily as possible free of cost.