DrSafeHands, an online healthcare service provider, and Solidarity Foundation, an NGO working for sex workers and gender/sexual minorities, have teamed up together and launched a pan-India free helpline service for LGBTQ people to provide mental health related support and counselling.
The service was launched on April 1st under ARISE Tran(forming) Lives Project, a CSR initiative of Altran ( part of Capgemini) for general wellbeing, upskilling and facilitating entry of trans community to the formal job sector. The team consists of psychiatrists and clinical psychologists who are trained in tele-counselling. LGBTQ people suffering from mental health issues like depression, anxiety, etc can call up the helpline between 9am to 8pm on any day. They are then connected to the psychologist/psychiatrist based on their need, and multiple counselling sessions are then planned accordingly. Each session lasts about 40-60 minutes.
Dr Ashish Arora, founder of DrSafeHands, told Gaylaxy about some of the calls that they have received and the people who have been counselled. “We have received calls from cross-dressers who are ridiculed by their family; a 19 year old with gender dysphoria who is facing harassment from family; a student who is a male-to-female transgender with suicidal tendencies because of opposition from their parents; other callers were under increased stress and anxiety due to the lockdown and loss of livelihood, a few others were going through relationship issues.”
Counsellors manning the helpline can speak Kannada, Tamil, Telugu, English and Hindi. Within a month of its launch, the helpline is already receiving 30-40 calls a day. Another similar mental health helpline for transgender people was launched by the National Backward Finance and Development Corporation, a Govt of India undertaking under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment in April for a month.