Written by Arohi Gadagkar
On July 23, Connecting Trust will have completed 14 years of assisting more than 25,000 people who have experienced suicidal thoughts, people who have witnessed a suicide attempt, people who have lost a loved one or people who want to learn and spread awareness about suicide.
Connecting Trust was created in 2005 by Arnavaz Damania to provide a resource for people seeking mental health help, specifically focusing on suicide prevention. In 2018, Connecting Trust received 1,600 beneficiaries through the Distress Helpline — so far, in 2019, 1,598 beneficiaries have utilised the helpline. This surge in callers is due to increased outreach on social media, prompting people suffering from emotional distress to reach out. The number of beneficiaries is likely to double in 2019, says programme coordinator (Connecting Trust) Vikramsinh Pawar.
Connecting Trust consists of four programmes — the Distress Helpline, the Suicide Survivors Support Programme, the Peer Educators Programme and the General Awareness Programme. With these four programmes, Connecting Trust aims to extend support to those who need it while also erasing the stigma surrounding suicide by spreading awareness throughout society.
To “reach out to the maximum number of people, we have alliances with the police, the doctors, the lawyers and the student community,” says Pawar. Connecting Trust works with residents of Pune for the most part, but they have broadened their influence, reaching survivors in various locations across the country.
When a person calls the helpline, they are greeted by a trained volunteer. “We are a completely volunteer-based programme, all the programmes are done by a team of trained volunteers,” says Pawar. The volunteers are taught to inquire about suicide as soon as possible in each and every call, as the volunteers have no way of knowing when the call will be dropped. After exploring each individual’s extent of emotional distress, the volunteers engage in active listening, as they cannot advise the callers.