Airtel enables NIMH Mental Health Helpline 1926 expansion to Whatsapp

• Lockdowns and the economic crisis has resulted in a sharp increase in mental health related issues
• A growing demand for chat based solutions aligned to the needs of Sri Lanka’s youth

The nation’s preferred telco among youth, Airtel Lanka in partnership with the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), announced a major expansion of the 1926 Mental Health Helpline to now include a dedicated Whatsapp service. Anyone in need of mental health assistance can now reach NIMH’s Mental Health Helpline via WhatsApp on 075 555 1926.

“The recent lockdowns and the increased isolation that it caused has led to an increase in mental health related issues. Hence, the need for a WhatsApp based solution is very much the need of the hour. The majority who reach out through the chat-line tend to be young Sri Lankans who are struggling to cope”

“Text messaging is of course a great solution, especially for young people, who tend to be more comfortable chatting instead of speaking, especially when starting a conversation with us, and we are grateful to the Airtel team for supporting our efforts to expand access to mental health,” NIMH Senior Consultant Psychiatrist, Dr. Pushpa Ranasinghe said.

Since going live on World Mental Health Day 2020, the text-based service alone has helped to initiate over 100 life-saving interventions, in addition to providing support, comfort and guidance to many individuals facing challenges with their mental health.

“Airtel is proud to continue supporting the incredible work being done by the team at NIMH, and we hope that the expansion of the 1926 service to Whatsapp will encourage even more Sri Lankans to reach out, knowing that there is always someone there to listen,” said Ashish Chandra, CEO/MD, Airtel Sri Lanka.

He noted that Airtel’s decision to expand the service to Whatsapp was a direct response to young users of the text-based service themselves who tend to show a clear preference for data over voice or text. The additional functionality enabled by the app could also open up new possibilities for the life-saving service – potentially including video-calls, sharing of prescriptions, and voice notes.

“With this latest expansion of the 1926 service, Airtel hopes to reiterate the need for an open and understanding culture around mental health that encourages more young people to reach out to professionals. This is particularly important when they are experiencing times of crisis and may benefit from guidance on their mental health concerns in a safe and anonymous environment. Ultimately, whether you or someone you know is going through a crisis, or just feel like you need a little support, the ability to easily reach out can make all the difference. We hope that by creating the spaces for these conversations to take place, we can help be a part of that change,” Ashish stated.

The expansion of the service, easily accessible for all Airtel users, and everyone on any
mobile network is as a result of the significant success of the Airtel-NIMH 1926 text-based helpline. The 1926 Mental Health Call Line and SMS Line continues to be free for all Airtel users.

In pursuit of that goal, Airtel announced that it would also be committing itself to raising awareness on mental health and all of the available NIMH 1926 helplines across its entire user base, leveraging Airtel’s social media platforms, and the My Airtel App.

Photo caption: (From Left) NIMH, Deputy Director, Dr. Arosha Wijewikrama, Ministry of Health, Additional Secretary – Medical Services, Dr. Sunil De Alwis, Ministry of Health, Secretary, Janaka S Chandraguptha, Airtel Lanka, CEO/Managing Director, Ashish Chandra, NIMH, Director, Dr. Dhammika Wijesinghe, NIMH, Senior Consultant Psychiatrist, Dr. Pushpa Ransinghe.