When a city-based suicide prevention helpline receives as many as 717 calls in just six months, it is time to take note. Specially, as a majority of the callers — as many as 593 people — are in the 15-39 age group. September 10 is observed as World Suicide Prevention Day. Of the 717 calls, 561 were from men, 149 from women and five from transgenders, said Medha Kale, chief coordinator at Connecting NGO that has been running the suicide-prevention helpline since 2005.
Arnavaz Damania, who set up the helpline along with people concerned, said several young boys were among the callers. “They are usually withdrawn and despite having a large circle of friends, they are unable to communicate with them or their parents. They are too closed and do not talk freely,” she pointed out. A patient needs a compassionate ear and a safe, non-judgmental space to share distress and that can go a long way in preventing those in distress from taking the extreme step. The helpline — daily available from 2 pm to 8 pm on 18002094353 (toll free), and 9922001122 (mobile) — has responded to more than 15,000 callers till date. The service is managed entirely by our volunteers, according to Kale.
To observe World Suicide Prevention Day, the NGO has organised many events and awareness programmes in Pune. “We have been working with teens in schools to build resilience and help them cope through our ‘Peer to Peer’ programme. We are publishing our course manual on ‘Peer to Peer’ support on the occasion. The book will be released by Dr Vasudeo Paralikar, a city-based psychiatrist. The manual will help all those working with adolescents to introduce the topic of emotional well-being,” she said.
Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors (MARD) has planned to launch a ‘Mission Suicide Prevention’ programme. Citing the NCRB data where 18 per cent (20,412) of all suicides in 2014 were by housewives, Dr Sagar Mundada, president of MARD, said overall, there appeared to be a decline in homemaker suicides but the data revealed two things — one, a quiet festering problem in Indian marriages, and two, a problem with numbers. He, however, pointed out that with the new mental health bill decriminalising suicide, it would allow anyone who has attempted suicide to be treated immediately without the medico-legal process.
This would also remove the stigma and also help collect data on those who attempt suicide and to plan services for them, he added. Suicide cases were often under-reported or reported as accidents, he said. Kiran Moghe, who works with the All India Democratic Women’s Association, said despite the fact that domestic violence constituted more than half the crimes against women, it still took a back seat as compared to social crimes such as rape and child abuse because it was difficult to acknowledge that the greatest site of violence was internal, in our own homes. Many women were still being married off young and they were not mentally and physically prepared to meet the challenges of married life, he added.