Various agencies have come together in tackling Gender Based Violence (GBV), anxiety and alcohol or drug withdrawal during the lockdown, and information on COVID-19 safety protocols were also imparted.
It was found that the GBV cases reported this lockdown is lesser than the number of cases reported in the past lockdowns.
A senior psychiatrist, JDWNRH, Dr Damber K Nirola said, “I am getting lots of call, including the 1010 calls, but besides that the most common cases I have received are people with panic disorder due to anxiety, and those with drugs and alcohol withdrawal disorder.”
There are people who have called to get a refill of their medication, he said, adding that at such times, they can just prescribe medication and instruct them on how to get the medication.
“Having to deal with everything online, we are not able to assist them properly. We can only do question and answer, and this is one challenge to deal with. I provide consultations to doctors in the districts, whereby we discuss and come to consensus on cases and medications.”
One pertinent issue, while handling things online is network disruption, and they were not able to provide help to those people who are not in Thimphu, as they are not able to travel at the moment, he added.
Dr Nirola also attended a call from a woman suffering from mental stress reaction due to violence at home, which required medical attention. Domestic Violence (DV) cases can lead to anxiety and depressive symptoms, but there is something called acute stress reaction, which is a different condition to tackle with, he said.
“Some patients need to get admitted, which they cannot do at the moment and this is one major issue at the moment,” he added.
Executive Director of Respect Educate Nurture and Empower Women (RENEW), Tshering Dolkar, said, “We are collaborating with all the relevant stakeholders to address mental health issues and GBV related issues. It’s quite challenging and difficult to provide any kind of services during lockdown. The only service we can provide for now is counseling through phone.”
People are frustrated getting locked up for longer time, some got laid off from jobs, and some having to adjust many people in a small compartment, she said, and those could be factors contributing to such issues.
“During such time, they just need a small reason to pick up a fight. However, no heinous cases have been reported, so far. Everything is happening due to mental trauma where even men are victims to such social issues,” she added.
In addition, RENEW along with other agencies have activated shelters in all the dzongkhags where essential and counseling services are provided. The callers who call for help are provided with the required information and referred to the right organization.
She further said that though they cannot travel to the survivors during such times, they do call the survivors after lockdown and provide the necessary support.
Meanwhile, a mental health counselor said that during the first few days after the blackout/ lockdown, she has received more than 20 calls a day inquiring mostly about COVID-19 related issues. The calls have now reduced to 3 to 4 calls every day with regard to GBV and mental health issues.
She said, “I have received calls on cases related to mental health, alcohol withdrawal, domestic violence, and a few cases on suicidal ideation. In recent times, I have received calls related to suicidal attempts and who have suicidal thoughts. But of all, for me in particular, I have received DV cases the most. They have also called for shelter services.”
While taking up mental health issues, she said that there are people who take it positively, whereby they take advantage of the situation to also talk about their past, and most of the cases, she dealt was patients who were mentally unhealthy.
On the other hand, there are people who make prank calls to ridicule them, she added. “For confidentially purposes, we are not allowed to use the social media, but in some cases we have to look for ways to connect to the person through social media platforms. Some call but they talk all nonsense,” she added.
Some people do not understand the counseling roles, whereby they have to attend to every call related to e-Pass and essential delivery, and those are some of the challenges at the moment, she said.
She has counseled female survivors who are victims of intimate partner violence. She said, “Police has forwarded a few cases to me as the survivors needed mental support. Otherwise, no heinous case has been reported, so far.”