Maha ropes in health workers to curb farmers' suicides

Mumbai: Two days after Maharashtra Agriculture Minister Eknath Khadse said that the government cannot stop farmer suicides, his cabinet colleague Deepak Sawant has decided to rope in health workers (anganwadi sevikas) to stop farmers from killing themselves.

Maharashtra Health Minister Deepak Sawant said health workers and Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHA) would monitor the mental health situation of farmers and their family members to detect any suicidal tendencies, so that these findings are reported to medical officers of local primary health centres.

"Medical officers have been instructed to start a dose of anti-depression medicines to farmers after receiving such reports. Underpaid health workers will get incentives for additional work," Sawant told PTI.
"We chose health workers since they have door-to-door contact in each village and they interact with farmers' wives regularly. We will give them a detailed questionnaire prepared by psychiatrists to be answered by farmers' family members.

We will also train them to analyse findings of these replies. Some top psychiatrists will begin training these health workers from next week," he said.

"Sigmund Freud had said that there is only one suicidal moment in a person's life. He prepares for that moment for a long time but if that moment passes away, the person does not think of suicide again. We are trying to catch that moment. If we succeed in saving at least two among ten such farmers, it will be an achievement in itself," Sawant said.

He said that primary health centres have been asked to stock anti-depression medicines to be distributed to farmers. "We will reimburse farmers' hospital bills so that they won't be burdened with these," Sawant said.

During the first phase, the scheme will be launched in Yavatmal and Osmanabad districts, since Yavatmal in the Vidarbha region has already acquired the dubious distinction as a farmers' suicide-prone district, he said.

Osmanabad, which is located in the equally backward Marathwada region, has registered 78 farmers' suicides since January, he said.

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