The state-run St. George’s Hospital has added counselling to Covid-19 treatment. For the past two months, 12 doctors from JJ Hospital’s psychiatry department have been holding regular counselling sessions with patients here. Dressed in PPE suits and armed with microphones, they have been trying to improve their mental well-being by talking to them and playing videos and movies with a positive outlook. Calling it a ‘therapeutic community’, doctors say they have counselled over 200 Covid-19 patients so far.

Isolation, fear and death are wreaking havoc on the minds of coronavirus patients across the world. Though the mental toll is yet to be studied and documented in India, the medical fraternity is taking a forward-thinking step in the wake of situations varying from death in the family to social stigma surrounding Covid-19 and loneliness.

The idea of counselling patients was introduced by Dr TP Lahane, head of the Directorate of Medical Education and Research. Apart from daily interactive sessions and motivational talks, patients can also reach out to doctors to discuss their personal issues and seek guidance.

A doctor said a therapeutic community means that in the absence of a family inside the wards, patients are made to develop cordial relationships amongst themselves, with compassion and care for one another.

Another doctor said the hospital has both group and individual therapy, with the latter including cognitive behaviour therapy by psychiatrists. “We also have recreational therapy that includes games, music and movies to overcome loneliness and anxiety,” the doctor explained.

St George’s Hospital is one of the city’s key designated Covid-19 hospitals. Since March 27, it has admitted 1,189 coronavirus patients. Out of these, 753 have recovered. Currently, 174 infected patients are admitted here.

Hospital superintendent Dr Akash Khobragade said many patients are alone for over two weeks, as no one from their families is allowed inside the ward. He said many patients also talk to psychiatrists about their personal issues. “Our sessions are mostly about how to resume normal life after recovery,” he said.

Dr Lahane said the idea was to remove the fear of Covid-19. “We formed a committee under Dr VP Kale, who heads the department of psychiatry at Grant Medical College, and established a protocol, which has been sent to all 18 medical colleges. We have received positive feedback,” Dr Lahane said.



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