By Surabhi Bharadwaj, Sukh-Dukh Helpline Coordinator, Pallium India; and
Smriti Rana, Head, Policy Advocacy & Strategic Partnership and Community Engagement Division, Pallium India
There is no escaping the tragedy brought on by the losses experienced in the second Covid-19 wave. The pandemic has contributed to the size and intensity of the grief burden in India. The breakdown of traditional support structures has created a dire need for alternate ways to address distress.
This is where our emotional support system—the Sukh-Dukh Helpline—has helped to bridge the gap.
The Sukh-Dukh Helpline is a Pallium India initiative begun in October 2020, in collaboration with Caregiver Saathi, MIND India, and Edjacklegs. We conceptualised this telephone helpline during the first wave: the need for it now is greater than ever.
Sukh-Dukh Helpline is a national platform to address emotional distress, particularly in the context of the pandemic. It offers psychological first aid, grief and bereavement counselling, and emotional support to persons across India. Through our service, beneficiaries receive appropriate support, empathy, respect, and information, delivered with sensitivity and adhering to the ethical principles of confidentiality.
The existence of such a helpline, or even the idea of asking for help itself, is outside the norm for many of us. Seeking professional help—especially if we are going through trauma, or any kind of emotional distress—is not something that comes naturally in our culture.
Receiving help, too, is a cultivated grace for many. It is time to normalize seeking help for our emotional well-being, as we do for our physical well-being, and make it acceptable to be vulnerable.
This service is free of charge, making it accessible and inclusive to everyone in India. It is delivered by a team of 10 trained volunteers who cover six days a week (every day except Sunday) from 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. The helpline, which now receives six to eight calls weekly, is operational in eight languages: Hindi, English, Telugu, Tamil, Kannada, Assamese, Bengali, and Malayalam.
The helpline has an inbuilt system of professional supervision that takes cognizance of the needs of the callers as well as demands on the counsellors. There are regular quality improvement, up-skilling, and capacity-building sessions for the whole team, and we maintain a strong adherence to professional ethics. We track the progress of the helpline while maintaining confidentiality.
With the steady increase of emotional complexities we are facing as a people, we intend to increase the number of volunteer counsellors in order to sustain a helpline available 24/7.
Time and again, we find that it is the social capital—the community and its people—who come together to provide the safety net and support system that is most sustainable and effective. With a little bit of guidance and logistical coordination, we are able to care for one another in ways that are most suited and appropriate in our contexts.
The SukhDukh Helpline can be accessed by calling +91 759 405 2605 from 9:30 am to 6:30 pm IST.
Warming up for World Hospice and Palliative Care Day
Holding events is a challenge this year, as it was in 2020, but increasing awareness about children’s palliative care can be as simple as posting a selfie for Hats and Masks On for Children’s Palliative Care, #Hatson4CPC.
This is suggested by the International Children’s Palliative Care Network, which is spearheading the event for the 8th year. The event takes place on Friday, October 8, the day before World Hospice and Palliative Care Day.
ICPCN has prepared a toolkit for participants here with guidelines, templates, shareable graphics and more. This website includes shared materials for downloading, including a logo, social medial graphics, poster templates, and tips for filming.
The Worldwide Hospice Palliative Care Alliance has launched the online toolkit in preparation for World Hospice and Palliative Care Day on October 9, with the theme “Leave No One Behind: Equity in access to palliative care.”
“All over the world, people experience barriers to accessing palliative care and relief of serious health-related suffering, some groups more than others,” says Dr. Stephen Connor, WHPCA Executive Director. On October 9, “we will lift up examples of programs and people that have overcome [these] barriers.”
The toolkit includes a media release template, an advocacy template, logos, social media content and how-to tips for fundraising and filmmaking. You can register your events for World Day with the WHPCA here.
Successful APHN 20th Anniversary Initiative
As part of its 20th anniversary, the Asia Pacific Hospice Palliative Care Network (APHN) joined with Sing Lit Station (SLS) to publish to let the light in, a poetry collection that gathered the voices of doctors, nurses, caregivers, and patients from across the region to address a universal experience: death.
The book contains 111 poems in 11 different languages. Non-English poems were reproduced in their original language alongside an English translation, to ensure that the anthology remains widely accessible. It can be purchased here for $23 US.
SLS and APHN created fundraising campaigns that raised $20,060 in order to distribute 1,000 copies of the book to end-of-life patients, caregivers, and health care workers through selected hospitals and hospices in Singapore across the Asia Pacific.
Also for their anniversary, APHN is asking people to share their memories of the organization via text (no more than 300 words), photos (high resolution), or video (no more than two minutes long). The deadline is September 30, 2021.
The Grief Handbook by Bridget McNulty, published in August, was written after her mother’s sudden death. Her mother was cared for by Highway Hospice in Kawzulu Natal, South Africa; she will be donating R10 from every book sale to the Hospice Palliative Care Association of South Africa.
“They were such a help and comfort to my family during my mom’s final days,” says McNulty. “When my mom died, I had no idea how to handle grief. It all seemed so unreal! She had been perfectly fine and then, 13 days after she was diagnosed with cancer, she was gone.” It weaves McNulty’s personal experience with expert psychological insights and practical advice to enable you to navigate your grief in your own way.
Ewa Skowronska, CEO of the Hospice Palliative Care Association of South Africa (HPCA) says: “We are so grateful to Bridget for her generosity. The pandemic has hit hospices hard. They have been caring for their usual patients, as well as patients with Covid-19 complications, throughout this challenging time. We are very dependent on donations, and with the economic situation in South Africa, it has unfortunately resulted in the closure of 14 hospices in 2020 and 2021. So, funds from a book that has so resonated with us, is a great gift.”
ICUGrief.ca has created a French translation of its English free, online clinical training module: Grief and Trauma in the ICU. The modules help to guide understanding and support for families in acute grief and share practical strategies to intervene sensitively.
There are four modules.
To learn more about Pallium India, the Caregiver Saathi, the International Children’s Palliative Care Network (ICPCN), the Worldwide Hospice Palliative Care Alliance (WHPCA), the Asia Pacific Hospice Palliative Care Network (APHN), the Hospice Palliative Care Association of South Africa, and the Hospice Palliative Care Association of South Africa visit the IAHPC Global Directory of Palliative Care Institutions and Organizations.