PETALING JAYA, Nov 23 — Online mental health sessions are now gaining traction among non-governmental organisations amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
One such NGO is the Suriana Welfare Society that has launched its own mental telehealth sessions, which is a technology-based mental health service to the B40 community in Desa Mentari.
The sessions are expected to begin next month.
Established in 2010, the NGO has been providing aid to underprivileged communities, empowering mothers with income-generating projects, and providing educational activities to children who need them.
Telehealth is a term used to describe the delivery of mental health services using telecommunication technologies such as telephone, video conferencing and other internet delivered therapy programmes.
Its founder and chairman James Nayagam said that many children have been diagnosed with depression due to struggling with their online classes and having their mobility restricted.
“Children who have to sit in front of the laptop to study are finding it difficult to do so especially since they’re used to moving around and being with their friends.
“Other students are not interested in studying online and are often hooked on their gadgets which is a major distraction for them.
“And add the fact that they don’t have enough space to move around their low cost flats has added to their anxiety and depression.”
James said that while children are in need of the online mental health session, adults and senior citizens are encouraged to join the telehealth support group.
“Distance counselling using a digital audio video platform that provides secure and encrypted communication in real time is important especially to those affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.”
According to him, many of the Desa Mentari residents were open to the idea when it was first proposed to them earlier on this month as they were aware of the importance of maintaining good mental health.
James added that the NGO also plans to extend the telehealth initiatives to other communities such as shelter homes for children.
Executive director Janice Tan said the telehealth session would be done at the Play and Learn Centre (PAL) at Desa Mentari for younger children aged nine above.
“Residents who want to undergo counselling sessions would have to access a laptop provided in Desa Mentari’s telehealth room while the counsellors would be using accessing the online session in Suriana Centre.
“For children who want to join the online counselling sessions, they would first need to see the counsellors face-to-face first to recognise the counsellor before they are familiar with joining the online telehealth session.”
Tan said that as a counsellor herself, some of the strategies used to talk to children include storytelling, and playing games with them to get them to be comfortable to talk about their problems to her.
“Most children aged nine above are already able to communicate properly and talk about their problems which was why nine was set as the minimum age for them to join the session.
“And there will be times where we would have to ask the children’s parents to join the online sessions with their children so that parents too well be in the know on how they can help their children cope with their own mental health problems.”
Tan added that the children and adults would be referred to psychiatrists if necessary.
The certified reality therapist said that some of the adults in Desa Mentari have been suffering from depression especially after losing their jobs to the pandemic while struggling with limited financial resources.
She said that the counselling sessions for the Desa Mentari community will be free and certified counsellors are also welcomed to join the NGO.