Adults too seek counselling services

Yangchen C Rinzin

The counsellor listens attentively. His voice is calming as he, in a slow and clear, tells the person on the phone to relax. After 35 minutes at 10:30 pm, he hangs up the phone.

On the other end of the line was a student from Mongar who couldn’t sleep. The reason is the Covid-19 scare.  This is the third session between the student and the counsellor in one day.

The counsellor is one of the 147 certified school guidance counsellors across country working round the clock to provide counselling to students. The career education and counselling division created Sherig Counselling service in a social media Facebook to reach students and as a response plan to Covid-19 pandemic. Another five counsellors from the career education and counselling division also attend to the students from Thimphu.

Division’s chief, Reena Thapa, said since the attention has been more on the curriculum right now, the Facebook page was created to reach out and provide psychosocial support. She said since there is no toll free number, the page has all the contact numbers of counsellors. Students can call or drop a message anytime they require counselling while at home.

The service mainly aims at students who are afraid, traumatised, disturbed or confused by the current Covid-19 situation. “It’s very important that child’s psychosocial like symptoms of fear or mental issues are taken care of,” said Reena Thapa.

Although the page was created for students, it has now grabbed the attention of adults too. Counsellors attended to 35 clients as of yesterday.

A counsellor said that most clients share their fear of Covid-19 developed due to excessive exposure to image or videos of Covid-19. “Many are exposed to Covid-19 news and videos both on mainstream and different social media platforms,” he said. “Some even complain of seeing an enlarged version of the virus with claws chasing them or climbing over the wall and seeing them on everything they touch.”

Others seek help on basic parenting like how to take care of the children who are at home since schools are closed. A few students shared their stress on online education while many clients were overwhelmed by the flow of information on the pandemic.

Most call counsellors at night or odd hours when they feel free or secure to talk about the problem and seek counselling. Counsellors offer to call back students, as one session takes more than 30 minutes to counsel.

“Since it’s our personal number we worry that they might miss the counselling, as we’ve to attend personal calls too,” Reena Thapa said. “Sometimes we have to conduct more than five sessions for each client.”

Counsellors shared that it is a common psychological reaction to such a crisis, which is why people should only focus and follow medical precautions and advice from the health ministry.

A few from the facility quarantine shared their fear from Covid-19 because they have travelled from the affected countries. They also sought counselling on stress management while in the facility.

Reena Thapa said that although they still receive calls, most callers just want counsellors to listen to their problems to relieve their stress and that there were no major issues so far. 

“If there is any sign of severe anxiety or beyond our capacity, we’ll refer to the experts,” she added.

Education ministry’s emergency operations centre has also decided to give voucher of Nu 500 to each counsellor.

Meanwhile, the health ministry has set up hotlines for those in quarantine as counselling intervention and for those who may have mental distress due to current pandemic.