Online support to curb Covid stigma

Online support to curb Covid stigma

Rural caregivers answer call to action

With the physical distancing policy in place, social workers are using a mobile app to follow up on patients who have recovered from Covid-19 to help them overcome social stigma and reintegrate in their communities, a forum was told yesterday.

The kingdom has recorded 3,083 accumulated cases of Covid-19 so far and 2,960 have recovered from the disease.

Thammasat University, the Thai Health Promotion Foundation and other organisations are collaborating on a one-year project to digitise social work amid Covid-19. They launched the project yesterday at the university's Tha Phra Chan campus.

Professor Rapeepan Kumhom, the dean of Thammasat University's Faculty of Social Administration, told attendees at the forum yesterday that there have been cases of discrimination against coronavirus patients.

"Some condo owners asked [the patients] to leave because other tenants did not want to live with them. It is discrimination," she said.

"Some social workers cannot follow up on these cases," Prof Rapeepan added. "Therefore, we kicked off [the online support] programme to support community workers and those affected by the coronavirus crisis."

She said the initiative aims to train 200 volunteer caregivers to provide counselling and therapy during weekends to monitor and support about 1,600 cases in Bangkok and adjacent provinces.

"Many of the caregivers in the deep South and remote areas are registering for our online course," Prof Rapeepan said.

"Last week, a nun in Italy joined the empowering counselling class."

Caregivers for the initiative must be trained and certified. Consultation services are done through the telemedicine app "Clicknic".

Clicknic CEO Neil Nilvichean yesterday said the medical staff at the Urban Institute for Disease Prevention and Control and the former Thammasat University Field Hospital used the app to screen and treat coronavirus cases.

"It is now easier for social workers to reach out, follow up, and file reports during the outbreak," Mr Nilvichean said.

Saranpat Anumatrajkij, the deputy permanent secretary for the Social Development and Human Security Ministry, said her organisation has introduced financial and welfare measures for vulnerable groups over the past four months.

Included in the drive is the "no one left behind" campaign for nearly 4,000 communities in Bangkok -- half under the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration and 286 under her ministry.

"We will extend help to the last group and another nine pilot provinces tomorrow [today]," Ms Saranpat said.

"We will join hands with other ministries to help these inaccessible communities," she added.

Asadang Ruayajin, the deputy director-general of the Department of Disease Control, yesterday warned that discrimination could lead to problems such as mental illness and suicide.

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