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Indian Launches Digital Mental Health Network Tele-MANAS

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On World Mental Health Day (10 October), the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare launched the Tele-Mental Health Assistance and Networking Across States (Tele-MANAS) initiative.

Tele-MANAS is a response to the mental health crisis in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which highlighted the urgent need to establish a digital mental health network, a press release stated. Tele-MANAS will provide free tele-mental health services all over the country 24/7, particularly targeting people in remote or under-served areas.

The programme includes a network of 23 tele-mental health centres of excellence. The National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) is the nodal centre for the project, and the International Institute of Information Technology-Bangalore (IIIT-Bangalore) will provide tech support. The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT-Bangalore) and the National Health Systems Resource Centre (NHRSC) will offer technical support.

The government intends to open at least one Tele-MANAS Cell in each state/union territory. The project will be organised in a two-tier system. Tier-1 comprises state Tele-MANAS cells, which include trained counsellors and mental health specialists. Tier-2 comprises specialists from the District Mental Health Programme (DMHP) for physical consultations and e-Sanjeevani (the national telemedicine platform) for audio-visual consultation. Presently, there are five regional coordination centres and 51 state/union territory Tele-MANAS cells.

The initial rollout to provide basic support and counselling through a centralised interactive voice response system (IVRS) is being customised for use across the country. This will not only help to provide immediate mental healthcare services but also facilitate a continuum of care, the release noted.

Some of the mentoring institutes include the All-India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS) in Patna, Raipur, Bhopal, Kalyani, Nagpur, Jodhpur, Rishikesh, and Bhubaneshwar. Also, the Hospital for Mental Health in Ahmedabad, the Institute of Psychiatry and Human Behaviour in Goa, and the Institute of Mental Health in Chennai, among several others.

The states and union territories that launched the Tele-Mental Health Programme on World Health Day Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Chhattisgarh, Dadra Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka, Kerala, Ladakh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal.

The government hopes to link Tele-MANAS with other services like e-Sanjeevani, the Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission (ABDM), mental health professionals, wellness centres, and emergency psychiatric facilities. Eventually, this will include the entire spectrum of mental wellness and illness and integrate all systems that provide mental health care. NIMHANS has conducted training for 900 Tele-MANAS counsellors from almost all states/union territories.

To promote digitisation in healthcare institutions, in August, the National Health Authority (NHA) issued hardware guidelines for state and union territory hospitals, clinics, and wellness centres. The guidelines briefly describe the required infrastructure for the efficient implementation of the ABDM, with a particular focus on quality patient care and the adoption of digital initiatives. They cover regulations for desktops and laptops; printers; QR code readers; QR code printers; fingerprint scanners; uninterrupted power supply (UPS); and web cameras.

The guidelines also provide a basic framework for the planning, assessment, and procurement of the IT hardware (including IT specifications of various hardware equipment) based on the size of the healthcare facility. It will enable healthcare providers to operate applications compliant with the ABDM.

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