On August 28, the Emergency Response Centre at Aundh received a call on the helpline 108 in the early hours of the morning. The caller, from Baramati, said an ambulance had to be sent urgently as the caller’s uncle was bleeding. The ambulance reached within 15 minutes. The doctors found that the 40-year-old patient had self-inflicted injuries on the abdomen. He was admitted to the Baramati Rural Hospital.
On July 4, the Emergency Response Centre received a call at 6.30 am from Nagpur about a 28-year-old woman lying unconscious after a self-inflicted injury to her left hand. The caller told doctors that the patient was suffering from depression and had had arguments with her neighbour. Timely action helped save her life.
These are not isolated cases. In the last four years, the Maharashtra Emergency Medical Services (MEMS) has handled and treated as many as 3,551 suicidal/behavioural emergencies, said Dnyaneshwar Shelke, the chief operating officer of MEMS.
An initiative of the state public health department, MEMS is operated by BVG India Limited and it provides emergency medical services across the state, which can be accessed by calling 108, a toll-free number.
Last year, the state had seen 766 cases of suicidal/behavioural emergency, 676 in 2016, 965 in 2015 and 635 in 2014, said MEMS officials.
‘Working together to prevent suicide’ is the theme of World Suicide Prevention Day, which falls on September 10. Across the world, the day is observed to step up awareness on preventing suicides. According to the International Association for Suicide Prevention, over eight lakh people commit suicide annually across the world.
Dial 104, a call centre set up by the state to provide advice to health workers and counselling on mental health, has received 156 such calls, shows data from March 2015 till date. “The reasons are varied and range from depression, anxiety and stress, to relationship problems and addiction issues,” Niraja Banker, senior manager of the Dial 104 health advice call centre, told The Indian Express.
“Besides counselling, we also try and mobilise health workers in the area to provide support to the concerned person while the call is still on, and we try to convince the caller that there are solutions to various problems,” said Banker.
In the city, Connecting NGO, which has operated a private distress helpline for the last 10 years, said it had registered 2,500 callers who needed help. “We receive eight to 10 calls daily and the average age of callers is between 18 and 45,” said NGO officials.
Psychiatrist Dr Archana Pophle, who is part of the Pune district mental health programme, said there has been an increase in the number of patients suffering from stress, anxiety, and depression-related disorders at the OPD at the district hospital, Aundh. “There are at least 900-1,000 patients at our OPD every month,” Dr Pophle said, adding that the reasons included increased work stress, competitive lifestyles, poor eating habits and lack of exercise.
District civil surgeon Dr Ashok Nandapurkar said several week-long programmes will be held on the occasion of World Suicide Prevention Day, including a stress management programme for inmates at Yerawada central jail, a mental health screening camp at the rural hospital, Shirur and a stress management programme for police staff at district hospital, Aundh, among others.
At Mpower, an organisation that provides mental health care solutions, chairperson Neerja Birla said their campaign urges people to speak up and end the stigma about openly discussing suicide. “With every hour that passes, one student commits suicide in the country, 25 percent adolescents are dealing with depression, and 11 per cent with substance abuse and addiction,” she said.
Birla encouraged people to seek help and put an end to the stigma against mental health issues.