Building on the urgent national efforts to enhance access to professional mental healthcare services for all Sri Lankans, Airtel Lanka in partnership with the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) announced the expansion of its Whatsapp service into a 24/7 operation.
The expanded service is designed to ensure that anyone facing challenges with their mental health can reliably reach out for help free-of-charge, and be assured of a compassionate and helpful response, day or night.
Prior to this, the NIMH was reachable 24/7 only through the 1926 helpline, and the operating hours of both SMS and Whatsapp lines had been restricted between 8am – 4pm.
“At a time when record numbers of Sri Lankans are facing extreme uncertainty, and unprecedented levels of stress and anxiety, we believe that mobile technology can be better utilized to make sure that every Sri Lankan and especially youth have access to the support they need to more effectively manage their mental health. In this manner, we can ensure that no Sri Lankan is left behind,” Airtel Sri Lanka CEO/MD, Ashish Chandra stated.
He added that moving forward, Airtel would also be working to amplify awareness about the importance of mental health and available services for those facing challenges to young Sri Lankans across the country. In an effort to do so, Airtel sponsored art and trilingual essay competitions conducted by the NIMH. Leveraging existing communications channels and partnerships with educational institutions, these sessions were catered to students of all grades across schools island-wide, in honour of World Mental Health Day 2022 in October.
“Between the lockdowns, and economic hardships, we are seeing an increase in the number of Sri Lankans reaching out for help with a range of mental health issues through the 1926 service. Especially for our younger users, they are often much freer to talk to us through the Whatsapp service in the evenings. We are grateful to the Airtel team for helping us bring these essential services into a 24 hour format, and amplifying the reach of this life-saving service,” NIMH Senior Consultant Psychiatrist, Dr. Pushpa Ranasinghe said.
Since launching 2 years ago on World Mental Health Day 2020, the text-based 1926 service alone has helped to initiate over 1000 life-saving interventions, in addition to providing support, comfort and guidance to many individuals facing challenges with their mental health. Most recently, Airtel partnered NIMH to further expand the SMS service to also include a Whatsapp line.
The initiative is also aligned with Airtel’s global mission to connect and empower youth across the world. Currently Airtel operates in 17 countries across South Asia and Africa, with networks that serve over two billion people. Ranked among the top three mobile operators globally, in recent months Airtel has also engaged in novel partnerships with global tech giants like Google and Meta in order create opportunities for enhancing digital inclusion across the region.
If you or someone you know is facing a challenge with their mental health, simply call, or SMS 1926, or start a chat on Whatsapp by messaging 075 555 1926. Airtel users have access to all these services completely free of charge.