September 10, 2021 5:24:31 am
On Friday, a four-member team of Gujarat government’s Jeevan Aastha — a suicide prevention helpline service– will begin an outreach and awareness drive in the predominantly tribal district of Aravalli on the Gujarat Rajasthan border.
It is here that the team consisting of counsellors along with the local Aravalli police will visit villages that have recently seen suicides, especially mass suicides by couples and their kids and suicides by young people.
According to representatives of Jeevan Aastha, the idea to visit Aravalli came after the district Superintendent of Police Sanjay Kharat made a request to them.
Kharat and his team were witnessing troubling cases of suicides of late in the district.
On September 7, local residents in a village in Aravalli rescued a man attempting suicide by hanging. It was later revealed that he had killed his three kids by throwing them in a dam prior to him taking the extreme step.
On August 18, a 17-year-old boy and 16-year-old girl were found hanging from a tree in Aravalli. On April 6, three youths aged 18, 19, and 20 drowned in a pond, in which police claimed to be a case of mass suicide.
One youth was rescued who claimed that the three were pressurised and harassed by a villager to take the extreme step. Accor-ding to Kharat, Aravalli an otherwise quiet place was witnessing troubling statistics of suicide, especially among young people.
“Around four months ago, we came across a disturbing incident where four members of a family- husband-wife and two kids- had taken the extreme step of hanging from one tree in a village in Aravalli. We noticed an unusual rate of suicide in the Aravalli district given its low demography compared to metropolitan cities. A four-member team was then formed which compiled police registered data of suicides and found that in the past five years (2015-2020), 300 persons had died by suicide in Aravalli. We also made classifications of the possible reasons for the suicides which were love affairs, financial distress, domestic disputes, academic failure or scoldings by parents,” said Kharat.
“We then made a list of the villages in Aravalli where these incidents took place. What we found in our analysis was that the issue of stigma around mental health was prevalent more in the rural belts than in urban areas such as Modasa and Bayad towns. On World Suicide Day, we want to introduce the rural belt people to the idea of counselling especially young people who are vulnerable. In this campaign, we will visit the identified villages in the district and a team of counsellors will speak to the people. We also intend to distribute literature regarding suicide prevention,” Kharat added.
Police also believed that practises of social ostracization in the tribal areas of Aravalli was also responsible for young couples taking the extreme step.
“What we have found is that young impressionable minds fall in love with each other and after a while, they face the wrath of the local society due to many reasons, leading to them and their families getting ostracized in their villages. Such mental and societal pressure also makes them take extreme step. Therefore we intend to counsel not just the vulnerable young people but also their parents and community leaders,” added Kharat.
Jeevan Aastha helpline was an initiative launched by former chief minister Anandiben Patel in 2015 as a 24/7 helpline for suicide prevention which is helmed by Gandhinagar range police under which Aravalli district falls.
Pravin Valera, liaison officer with the Jeevan Aastha helpline services, told The Indian Express, “People in urban areas have access to technology and can seek help online but those in villages don’t know where to go for help. What we have noticed is that people in the rural belt usually take the extreme step due to love affairs, extra marital affairs or land disputes.”
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