The recent suicide of actress Jiah Khan has opened the debate further on why such an extreme step is being taken by the youth. When the country’s youth should be happy and hopeful, why is it that we are facing increasing numbers of suicide being attempted or undertaken.
Depression is a state of low mood and aversion to activity that can affect a person’s thoughts, behavior, feelings and sense of wellbeing. Depressed people may feel sad, anxious, empty, hopeless, worried, helpless, worthless, guilty, irritable, hurt, or restless. In India, depression is still considered as a normal problem and therefore, one observes very little knowledge amongst citizens. Also, there is a taboo associated with visiting a therapist as it is believed that a person visiting a therapist has lost his mental balance and is ‘pagal’ (lunatic). Therefore one observes that with nowhere to go or no one to speak to, one finds oneself lonely and more vulnerable to taking the extreme step.
Suicide is an extreme form of expressing one’s feeling of depression, loneliness and helplessness. This translates to the conclusion that, “life is not worth living”. Unfortunately this expression is not understood and felt by many. Emotional support offered with warmth and understanding at the time of personal crisis might avert the thought of suicide.
Psychiatrists point out that the suicides have sparked a new worry among people, especially single parents. Also the media exposure to the alleged suicide of actress Jiah Khan could push those on the edge to take the extreme step. There are various helplines which are working, to provide support to these individuals. This highlights the loneliness in the city as more and more people are turning to strangers for help as they have no one trustworthy to fall back on.
Earlier, emotional and psychological problems were brushed aside. Now people feel okay to ask for help as the disintegration of nuclear families as well as migration across the globe has resulted in no support system being provided. The suicides are happening across gender-line. There is no sharp gender divides when it comes to people from the city choosing to end their lives, but with rising cases of suicides, more and more people are picking up the phone, seeking help to snuff out suicidal thoughts. So who do they call?
An organization that has been working towards this is Samaritans Helpline who have been instrumental in saving many lives, providing hope to numerous individuals who were about to lose their battle with life.
About Samaritans Helpline Samaritans Helpline was one of the first few branches of The Samaritans, UK, to be established outside of England. Samaritans Helpline has been actively working in the field of mental health and striving to support those in need of help, since 1960. It is a fully qualified member of Befriender India, under the umbrella of Befrienders Worldwide, and works with its sister organizations in India, and around the world, for this cause.
Befrienders India is based on the concept of an ordinary human being offering friendship to another at a time of crisis or loneliness. It is to respond to a suicidal person on an equal level and treat him or her exactly as we ourselves would want to be treated with unconditional, uncritical acceptance and respect, and more importantly with utmost confidentiality.
To provide this unconditional timely support through the use of volunteer befriending Befrienders International was established in 1974. Initially started as The Samaritans Movement in the year 1953 to serve depressed and suicidal people through volunteer befriending in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, it was subsequently expanded to other countries through Befrienders International. There are currently over 350 centers affiliated to Befrienders International worldwide in around 45 countries with a workforce consisting of around 40,000 volunteers providing care and support to the depressed and suicidal people.
Befrienders India was registered in November 1992 and is the nodal body, which coordinates the activities of national helplines or member centers that are working towards suicide prevention.
There are currently 9 centers spread across India and situated in Chennai, Ahmedabad, Kolkata, Kochi, Mumbai and Navi Mumbai, New Del-hi, Pondicherry, and Secunderabad. All these centers offer volunteer be-friending through Personal/ Telephonic/ Postal interaction.
The rise in calls has been more evident in the last couple of years owing to the stress brought about by an erratic job market and high competition. Then there are worried parents who call up the helplines to know a way to identify the signs of depression, following cases of suicide in the city.
Students who got their results recently and those awaiting results also call to know how they can ﬁght the problems that they are facing.
The helpline aims to provide emotional support to people when they are suicidal. They also help in alleviating misery, loneliness, despair and depression by listening to anyone who feels they have nowhere else to turn. There are volunteers who work here and are very carefully selected from amongst the people.
The Samaritans come out with an advertisement in the newspaper basis, which the applicants undergo an orientation, group discussion, measured across the parameter of emotional stability and after a ﬁnal leg of interview, they are selected.
It is to ensure that no such per-son is recruited who would force their conviction or would take their job lightly. These volunteers have to undergo a rigorous training especially formulated by Befrienders U.K., so as to ensure that they are non-political and non-religious in their views and understand the varied problems of individuals who call.
The role of a volunteer is to simply listen, to understand and to care. The volunteer can help in anyway, be it through telephone, letter, email or in face-to-face meetings. The volunteer has to ensure strict conﬁdentiality as well as the discussion that one has with the individuals, cannot be shared or compromised with. If the callers wish to be anonymous, then they are kept that way, with no prying questions to ascertain who they are. While some calls can last for more than an hour, the average call length on their helpline lasts 20 to 24 minutes.
There is also a professional unit which works with them. The professional unit consists of psychiatrists and psychologists who undertake counseling sessions for patients. They undertake these sessions free of cost.
So what are the reasons that are driving people to take the step? Four out of every 10 suicides in Mumbai from 2007 to 2011 were due to family problems, according to data from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). Similarly, 36% of suicides across the state during the same period were due to family problems. The trend was nationwide, with domestic issues being the main cause of suicides in high-incidence cities like Ban-galore, Chennai and Delhi, and states like Tamil Nadu and West Bengal. Illness was the next major reason, accounting for nearly 30% of the suicides in Mumbai and 27% in Maharashtra. Similarly, in cities like Bangalore Chennai and Delhi, and states like Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal and Karnataka, illness was a major cause of suicides.
In fact, in Karnataka and AP it out-weighed family problems.
Psychiatrists say a wide range of problems have their repercussions at home — like ﬁnancial problems, difﬁculties in relationships, long working hours, shrinking social support and skyrocketing prices.
Suicidal people hope for an alternative, but can’t see one. That’s why it is imperative to help them. Dealing with suicidal people is not easy, but not impossible. Suicidal tendencies should be recognized and tackled with effective strategies and interventions. The Samaritans Helpline have proven for last 20 years that they can provide help to those who need it and be life changers for many.
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