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2,000 distress calls a year since 2008: ‘Connecting’ to stay in touch with suicide bid survivors

September 10 is observed worldwide as Suicide Prevention Day.

Written by Anuradha Mascarenhas | Pune | Published: September 11, 2014 11:38:51 am

There is data that reveals every 40 seconds a person commits suicide in the world. But many such lives can be saved if people thinking of taking the extreme step decide to make a distress call. Counsellers at helplines run by NGOs have been able to dissuade many from ending their lives.

Distress calls to such helplines have been increasing over the years and city-based NGO Connecting, set up in 2005, says the helpline run by it receives over 2,000 distress calls a year.

The NGO has initiated a programme to remain connected with those who survive suicide attempts. Its helpline 18002094353 registered 9,633 distress calls from 2008 to March this year, of which 2006 were made in 2013-14, 2,451 in 2012-13 and 2,450 in 2011-12. As many as 2,006 distress calls were made from April 2013 to March this year and a new programme reached out to 40 patients who survived suicide attempts.

September 10 is observed worldwide as Suicide Prevention Day.

Bobby Zachariah, CEO of “Connecting”, says, “This year marks the release of World Suicide Report by the WHO and the goal is to reduce suicide by 10 per cent by 2020. The theme is ‘Suicide Prevention: One World Connected’ and our goal is to reach out to survivors of suicide attempts. The survivor support team has interacted with 40 survivors in the last few months,” says Zachariah.

“It has been extremely difficult as these are medico-legal cases and hospitals do not easily permit others to interact with them. It took us months to develop a trust with the hospital authorities and our volunteers meet these survivors (usually in the burns ward of hospitals) on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.”

The reason people try to take their lives vary from stress in family to financial crisis. Citing a case in which both were reasons, the NGO said a 40-year-old man attempted suicide and was admitted to hospital with burn injuries. He was under depression and suspected his wife’s fidelity and that his daughter may be in a relationship, though they dismissed his allegations. He had been facing severe financial problems and refused to open out to a counselling team that visited him 15 times and later told the team about alcohol abuse and his suspicions.

The helpline has 43.6 per cent first-time callers and 41.23 per cent repeat callers. It gives a chance to people to vent their feelings. An analysis of calls indicates 26.88% face problems with families and 25.21 per cent deal with problems related to affairs. Majority of them are males (83.31 %) and at least 62.47 per cent speak Hindi. 43.6% are unmarried and 71 per cent of them are in the age group 15-30 years.

“Our counsellors are trained to listen to emotional support which helps the caller to vent his/her emotions. The aim of the helpline is to explore feelings of the person in distress and reflect and acknowledge feelings and needs. Callers have a gamut of emotions, from being guilty, frustrated, confused, depressed, angry, and hurt,” Zachariah added.

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