Several 24-hour mental health support telephone hotlines have reportedly been launched in China in recent weeks as millions are worried about contracting the deadly novel Coronavirus - now officially named COVID-19 by the WHO. Medical professionals have reportedly welcomed the launch of the hotline services as mental health remains a taboo subject. However, they've also cautioned the Chinese public that unofficial talk lines could do more harm than good.
The National Health Commission of China told the media that more than 300 hotlines have launched to provide mental health support related to coronavirus in collaboration with university psychology departments, counselling services, and NGOs. They said that a volunteer group of over 400 therapists called 'Yong Xin Kang Yi', translating to 'Use Heart to Fight the Virus', focuses on providing mental assistance to overworked medical staff in Wuhan, the epicentre of the virus.
Cui Erjing, a Seattle-based volunteer for one of the hotlines, who is originally from China's southern Guangdong province told the media that there were a lot of hotlines out there staffed by a lot of volunteers but it just did not make sense because there aren’t many people that can be trained professionally. He added that it can be traumatising sometimes to seek assistance or support but not get the right responses at the right time.
The hotlines are reportedly a part of the government's initiative as a first-level response for dealing with the increasing psychological impact of health emergencies like the Coronavirus. According to the reports, a similar strategy that was first deployed following the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, a disaster in which 87,150 people were killed or were listed as missing.
Xu Wang, a psychotherapist at Tsinghua University, who is a part of the official Beijing city hotline team, said to the reporters that the major challenge in the project was working out which callers showed real symptoms of the virus and which were instead suffering from anxiety.
The hashtag 'how to deal with feeling very anxious at home' has been trending across all the social media platforms in China including Weibo and has garnered more than 170 million views amid the accelerating misinformation about the Coronavirus and quarantine of millions of citizens within the country.
(With Agency Inputs)