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Covid-19: Pune colleges, universities provide psychological counselling to students

www.hindustantimes.com | April 9, 2020
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One of the major educational hubs in the country, Pune has been hit hard by the pandemic and figures among the top cities to be affected by the crisis. More than 16 clusters have been sealed in the city even as the death toll due to Covid-19 touched 16 on Wednesday.

A number of colleges and universities in Pune have introduced psychological counselling and support for their students to cope with the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic in the country.

One of the major educational hubs in the country, Pune has been hit hard by the pandemic and figures among the top cities to be affected by the crisis. More than 16 clusters have been sealed in the city even as the death toll due to Covid-19 touched 16 on Wednesday.

‘Deemed to be’ universities such as Symbiosis International University (SIU), MIT World Peace University, College of Engineering Pune (COEP), St Mira’s College for Girls, Flame University and Sri Balaji University have introduced counselling facilities.

Dr Girija Mahale , consultant psychiatrist and head of Symbiosis Centre for Emotional Wellbeing, said, the sudden and long lockdown has confined students to their homes with no socialisation with their friends which is an important aspect of students’ lives. Besides this, students are worried about the uncertainty around almost all aspects of life, especially academics and placements.

“The student population at Symbiosis which falls in the late adolescence to early adulthood category has numerous psychological challenges due to this pandemic,” she said.

Dr Mahale said the Symbiosis Centre for Emotional Wellbeing has a team of well-qualified and trained psychological counsellors and is headed by a psychiatrist with experience in youth mental health. Counsellors assigned to every campus have been offering counselling sessions online for all students who are experiencing mental health issues” she said.

Students have also been provided with emergency contact numbers to get in touch with the counsellor 24/7. Those stranded at various hostels at different campuses are been individually contacted to check on their well-being, she said.

Rajdeep Nath, an MBA student and a hostelite from Symbiosis Institute of Business Management (SIBM) Pune said, the constant communication and online webinars were helping students like him.

Similarly College of Engineering Pune (COEP), one of the foremost engineering colleges in the country has introduced a dedicated helpline for their students.

Besides, the ‘COEP Mitra (friend)’ and ‘ICareWeCare’ initiatives have planned online sessions for students and a survey on the mental health of COEP students, faculty and staff members, said Kshipra Moghe, centre head of COEP Wellness Centre.

St Mira’s College for Girls launched a ‘Mental Well-being Program’ from March 22, an online support group for their students who are feeling distressed due to the pandemic.

On this online platform, students can share their needs, challenges and personal distresses associated with stringent preventive measures such as quarantine and social distancing.

Students are also filling-in an online survey to assess their mental health needs and readiness for online support groups and sessions. Nearly 275 students said they were looking for online support, said college principal Prof Gulshan Gidwani.

“In times like these, mental health can be easily neglected and unseen. It is possible to sometimes lose ourselves in news, constant anxiety and fear. But we need to remind ourselves that everyone has the ability to survive and fight. This programme here is to build an emotionally resilient student community,” she said.

Prof N T Rao, vice chancellor, MIT World Peace University said, the deemed university has initiated changes in its processes for the benefit of students. To help students who may have difficulties in accessing online lectures, all the lessons, lecture notes and video recordings have been uploaded to the University’s student portal.

“Professional counsellor and teachers are regularly talking to students and parents to give comforting assurances that they should utilize the current situation not only to come back strong on the academic front but also return to the campus as much stronger individuals,” he said.

Flame University has reached out to all students extending support through personal counselling and offering a stress-free virtual learning experience.

The university’s ‘Well Being Department’ has urged students to come forward, open up and share their psychological concerns, besides setting up a Behavioural Health toll-free helpline.

“Students can schedule a session with the concerned faculty via telephone or video conferencing. In case they want to seek any external intervention, we will help them with the relevant information on mental health support facilities and professionals that are available in their respective cities,” said University registrar Virender Sharma.

Biju G Pillai, senior director- IT and admissions at Sri Balaji University said the graduating students were looking forward to starting their careers with new jobs and the juniors were looking forward to their internships. Now it is important to keep the students engaged, he said.

Apart from faculty interactions, students are being given tips to spend quality time with their families and be emotionally rooted, he said.

Advice to students

Educational institutes in Pune have urged students to practice self-care by doing activities such as exercise, yoga and meditation or mindfulness.

* maintain a routine with regular, balanced meals and fixed time of sleep.

* connect with family members and friends at home or via telephone

* Use the available time to engage in a favourite hobby

* minimise watching or reading news relating to Covid-19

* expand their knowledge by reading different books

* contribute to household chores.

(Source: https://www.hindustantimes.com/education/covid-19-pune-colleges-universities-provide-psychological-counselling-to-students/story-od8q8I09V748XJ5cpzIZQP.html)