The recent suicides of spiritual leader Bhaiyyu Maharaj, senior IPS officer Himanshu Roy and famous chef Anthony Bourdain have once again raised serious questions about depression and mental illness. The issue has a particular resonance in Maharashtra, which has seen a steady increase in attempted suicide cases in the last four years, as per data from the state Emergency Medical Services (EMS). In the last four-and-a-half years, from 2014 till date, 3,367 persons have attempted suicide in Maharashtra, according to EMS. Worryingly, the highest number of cases were from Pune -254 — followed by Mumbai — 247. Jalgaon district had 183 such cases, Yavatmal had 171 and Kolhapur had 163 cases in which a person tried to commit suicide and needed assistance from the state-run ambulance service.
This year, till May, EMS has treated 325 persons who attempted suicide. Last year, the ambulance service had assisted 766 persons who had attempted suicide, said Dnyaneshwar Shelke, CEO of the EMS project in Maharashtra. In 2016, EMS had treated 676 persons who had attempted suicide and required medical help, while the number was 965 in 2015, and 635 in 2014.
Connecting NGO, which runs a distress helpline (1800-209-4353, Toll-Free, and 9922001122) since 2008, said it receives eight to 10 calls daily from those in distress and suicidal. Senior coordinator of Connecting NGO, Vikramsinh Pawar, said over the last 10 years, they have extended a help to over 23,000 people who had called on their helpline. “The number of calls has drastically increased over the last 10 years. Last year, we received approximately 3,500 calls,” he said.
“It is shocking when celebrities choose to end their lives. These people had everything going for them… such news often comes as a shock to the society. People who are trying to deal with depression and suicidal thoughts through spirituality, meditation and positive thinking have been taken aback with this news. The number of young, college-going students attempting suicide is also distressing,” added Pawar.
On issues that may cause emotional distress and lead to suicide attempts, coordinators at the helpline said these included financial problems, unemployment, low salary, harassment at workplace, relationship issues, break-ups, ragging, exam pressure and problems faced by sexual minorities (LGBTQI), among others.