The Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) was established in 1936 as the Sir Dorabji Tata Graduate School of Social Work. In 1944, it was renamed as the Tata Institute of Social Sciences.
Since its inception, the vision of the TISS has been to be an institution of excellence in higher education that continually responds to changing social realities through the development and application of knowledge, towards creating a people-centered, ecologically sustainable and just society that promotes and protects dignity, equality, social justice and human rights for all.
Mental health facilities in India are still quite insufficient owing to the limited number of services being offered as well as, the inadequate number of trained and supervised professionals. TISS has always taken a lead in addressing the psychosocial needs of individuals across various groups and has adopted diverse strategies and solutions to address these needs. iCALL is one such step taken in the direction of mental health work.
iCALL – Initiating Concern for All is a pioneering and an empowering mental health project which was started in 2012 by School of Human Ecology, TISS – Mumbai. iCALL endeavours to provide professional and free counseling through technology assisted mediums such as, telephone, email and chat to anyone in need of emotional support, irrespective of age, gender, sexual orientation or race, and transcending geographical distances while ensuring confidentiality.
iCALL also has partnerships and collaborations with academic institutions, corporates, government and non-government bodies. Faculty from the School of Human Ecology are involved in an advisory capacity in the project, such as recruiting of counselors, training, and monitoring and evaluation of service delivery.
Services available for users in iCALL chat service
iCALL-TISS partnered with Turn.io and WhatsApp to develop a first of its kind chatbot service. This service aims at offering mental health resources ranging from self-help, managing anxiety, distressing thoughts as well as resources on suicidal ideations and self harm. The bot has been designed to detect keywords that indicate distress and a need for help thus responding to immediate requests of clients who cannot get through us over the helpline.
Being a community-based helpline, we constantly face a need to connect the community with some immediate resources to help them manage their distress. Keeping this in mind, we try to share details of our chatbot to clients who reach out to us over our social media platforms. Additionally, we also provide referrals to these resources through our call & e-mail services.
Learnings from the chat service
The chat service has been an incredible resource to users of the community as it helps them to access resources at their convenience depending upon their concern. The process of developing the chatbot itself has been a wonderful learning experience. An integration of a technology like the chatbot and mental health can help us reach people in a faster and effective manner.
The chatbot is presently designed in English therefore, an expansion of resources in different linguistic capacities need to be created for a wider reach. This has been observed as many people reaching out belong to different and diverse communities that have their own regional language. Furthermore, offering therapeutic assistance over a WhatsApp service becomes challenging due to a lack of framework and boundaries that are usually followed in a face-to-face or telephonic set up. Nevertheless, the chatbot still remains to be a widely used resource that supplements our counseling services offered online.
iCALL is a free counseling service run by trained professionals through calls and emails.
Timings: Monday-Saturday, 10 AM to 8 PM.