One of the side effects of the 21-day quarantine period has been some psychological stress on the those undergoing it especially given that the majority of them are students coming back.
In this regard the health minister said that support has been put in place since around two to three weeks ago.
She said that there are two important aspects to this. One type are drug addicts who have withdrawal symptoms and those who have psychological issues from before. The minister said that to deal with this Dr Chencho who had already retired was instated back in service with Royal Command and so he has prepared on program on this front to help the above categories of people.
She said the second type are those whose parents or children are inside the the resultant worry from that. She said for this category around 14 Counsellors have been put in place with their phone numbers given. She said this is not just in Thimphu but for the 20 Dzongkhags.
Lyonpo said that there is then a third category of people worried and panicked by the ongoing events and she said for them the ministry has been bringing about advocacy programs and advice in the media and it will continue doing so.
She said that in case there are major problems for those with withdrawal symptoms or with psychological issues then places have been identified to keep them along with people who will care for them.
The MoH has also come up with fitness challenges on its facebook page for those in quarantine to keep them occupied.
MoH has designed a mental health and counseling intervention for those under quarantine experiencing mental distress due to the current pandemic.
A COVID-19 mental health response team has already been activated at the MoH.
The team will come on BBS TV and radio to inform the public, from time to time.
Dr Chencho with a team of 14 counselors are available round the clock for those who wish to consult them over 5 hotlines for COVID-19 consultations since 31 March. Anyone can call 17123237 or 17123238 or 17123239 or 17123240 or 17123241 for consultation 24/7.
If the consultation is going to be lengthy then MOH will follow up with a call. The team has plans to roll out this telephone counselling at the district and community levels.
The hotlines can be used if one cannot deal with the isolation they face being away from their family and loved ones in quarantine. Those under quarantine with prior mental health issues or substance abuse history can also use the hotlines to speak to counselors. The people who are unable to utilize the extra time and get bored in quarantine can also speak with the counselors.
The counselling is accessible to everybody including the families of those who are under quarantine and the general public. MoH is also mobilizing all school counsellors, addiction and counsellors and volunteer counselors to reach out to the people. They will be organized at different levels, such as at the national, district, thromdes and large organizations and at the community level.
The mental health team is also preparing SOPs on how to operate counselling for people in need of help. The team will be preparing radio jingles and TV and radio shows on the national TV.
As dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented experience for the limited group of counselors, therefore, MoH plans to adjust and learn as they provide the services.