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Ankara, June 30, 2020 -- A Turkish mother, finding it hard to cope with her 6-year-old son’s unusual tantrums, was able to call a newly created mental health telephone service to ask for advice. The responder who answered her call explained that children who are socially isolated can often feel bored, stressed and afraid while COVID-19 measures keep them apart from their schools and friends.
This mother is one of many Turkish people who have contacted the newly created, WHO-backed helpline which supports those affected by mental health issues in the wake of COVID-19.
"This psychosocial health support line was established to help people cope with stressors caused by changes to the lives of health workers and the public from COVID-19. It also assists individuals with chronic mental illness and provides a referral mechanism for people who need to access social services," states Dr Esra Alatas, Head of the Mental Health Department at Turkey’s Ministry of Health.
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80 000 consultations with trained staff in all 81 provinces
According to the Ministry, the service reaches all of Turkey’s 81 provinces and has provided more than 80 000 consultations to health workers and citizens since its launch in March. A guide for the helpline staff was developed jointly by the WHO and the Ministry of Health, and prior to the launch of the service, 418 staff were trained to offer advice on how to protect against COVID-19, manage stress and access mental health services.
"The guide for psychosocial support hotline staff contains consultation record forms as well as general advice and specially designed technical guidance for those working with adults, the elderly, children, health workers, people with disabilities and some institutions," explains Dr Akfer Karaoglan Kahilogullari, WHO Turkey Mental Health Program Coordinator.
The guide was developed by WHO in partnership with the Public Health Directorate Mental Health Department, Bakirkoy Mazhar Osman Mental Health Training and Research Hospital, University of Health Sciences, Turkish Red Crescent and International Medical Rescue Teams Association (UMKE-DER), with the support of Eskisehir Technical University.
Thanks to the helpline, those who are struggling mentally to adapt to life in the shadow of COVID-19 feel supported. In the case of the son who was having tantrums, the hotline urged the family to listen and to talk through their feelings as a way of learning to accept events beyond their control. The boy’s mother says that, thanks to this intervention, she has learned to stop blaming herself when things go wrong. "I forgive myself much more easily and more frequently now when I make parenting mistakes," she says. "I am more understanding and patient towards my children."
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
Published: Wednesday, July 1, 2020
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