A 28-year-old BA graduate had gone into depression and started talking of committing suicide. He was referred to the mental health counselling helpline 104 by a health worker.
Counsellors realised that the patient was socially withdrawn and had suffered a loss of confidence. He was also unemployed and on probing further, they found that the patient was already under psychiatric treatment. They identified his daily routine and provided certain interventions, which helped him improve his memory and use his time productively.
They also encouraged him to resume his medication, and to start looking for employment outside his village. Regular interactions over a couple of days helped the patient improve and he called back to say he was feeling better and had secured a good job as well.
In another instance, a 19-year-old man often had thoughts of committing suicide, wondering if he had contracted HIV/AIDS. Six months ago, he had unprotected sex and ever since had started to believe that he would contract HIV/AIDS or even rabies if the other person had been bitten by a dog. This caused a great deal of anxiety and ultimately led to thoughts of suicide.
He too called 104 to talk to paramedics, who in turn convinced him to speak to counsellors. They guided him on how to think positively and to keep himself engaged with friends, studies and family members. They also told him that he could speak to the doctors at 104 if he was still not convinced about his own health. They encouraged him to call back whenever he started having doubts and his thoughts turned negative. On following up, the counsellors found out that he was much better and would reach out whenever he needed help.
At the state-run Health Advice Call Centre 104, in Pune, the facility of mental health counselling services was introduced in 2015. Callers are mainly counselled for anxiety and depression, followed by queries on reproductive and sexual health.
Niraja Banker, senior manager, operations, said a total of 447 people were counselled against committing suicide. “The health advice call centre was set up in 2011. However, mental health counselling services were introduced in 2015,” she said.
She added that in the last three years, they had registered 9,358 calls pertaining to anxiety and depression while 3,743 callers required counselling on sexual and reproductive health. Another 2,961 callers were counselled against addiction.
World Mental Health Day is observed on October 10 and this year, the theme is ‘Suicide prevention’. Globally, close to 8 lakh people commit suicide every year, which comes to one person every 40 seconds. According to the World Health Organisation, suicide is the second leading cause of death among those aged between 15 and 29.
Dr Rahul Bagale, a consultant psychiatrist from a prominent hospital, said it was high time to deem mental health important and develop empathy and support for those who were struggling with mental health issues. “Unlike earlier, when there was a big family to fall back on and share problems, nuclear families have made it difficult to do so. The unreasonably bitter stigma attached to mental health issues also makes it difficult to seek professional help,” Bagale said.
According to Dr Sagar Mundada, a consulting psychiatrist, a state-level mental health festival ‘Manotsav’ had been organised from October 11 to 13 in Mumbai.
“We have decided to celebrate a festival of positive mental health and raise awareness against stigma about mental health issues,” Dr Mundada said.