While Maharashtra reported more than 40 per cent of the total number of farmer suicides in the country last year, and 57 suicide cases have been reported from the state in the three months so far this year, a few lives may have been saved by counsellors at the state health advice call centre operated from Pune.”
“We received 2,089 calls (from farmers identified to be suffering from depression) between October 2015 and March 31 this year, and 60 were (found) with suicidal tendencies. Our counsellors had long chats with them and explained what crops can be grown in a drought-prone region that does not require (much) water,” Nirja Banker, coordinator of call centre said.”
“There is always a solution to a problem,” Banker added.
The idea to get farmers suffering from depression to get counselling was sparked by a massive survey launched by the state government in October last year. In the last four months, the survey has identified 2.95 lakh farmers with significant health problems. Of them, 4,607 were found suffering from depression, 15,622 had hypertension and another 14,808 were identified with diabetes.
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A further 1,165 were identified with ischaemic heart disease (a condition that affects the supply of blood to the heart), 1,191 were found to have suffered stroke, 402 had significant renal problems that could require dialysis, and another 82 were identified with cancer.
In all, nearly 4.26 lakh farmers were screened — by more than 19,000 accredited social health activists (ASHA workers), who underwent training in conducting the survey with special questionnaires. They visited homes of 4.75 lakh farmers in 14 drought-prone, high-risk districts of Maharashtra from October 2015”
“Ninety per cent of the survey is complete and these findings are now helping us set up a comprehensive farmer health programme,” Dr Sadhana Tayade, Additional Director (mental health), told The Indian Express.
Dr Manish Renghe, Assistant Director (mental health), said that by and large the farmers surveyed are impacted by drought and other agriculture-related issues, and this has led to stress-related health problems.
According to official data, 1,690 cases of farmer suicides were reported in 10 states in 2015. Maharashtra reported the maximum — 725 — followed by Punjab (449), Telangana (342), Karnataka (107) and Andhra Pradesh (58).
While the 57 farmers suicide reported so far this year gives indication of the severity of the situation, the alarming drought conditions does not bode well for the state this year.