The unsung heroes: Combating suicide through one man's efforts to heal emotional wounds

15 June,2024 12:19 PM IST |  Mumbai  |  Tanishka Desai

According to a report by the NCRB, 1,70,924 cases of suicide were recorded in only the year 2022 in India, a 4.2 per cent increase from 2021, making it the highest recorded rate over 56 years

Kaustubh Shiravanekar

Key Highlights

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Ever since we entered the 2020s, we have all read cases in newspapers about a rather sensitive topic. From 3 Idiots to Chhichhore, from Deepika Padukone to Shah Rukh Khan, from teenagers to senior citizens- all have talked, explained and been educated on it, yet, we find ourselves in the middle ground when it is brought up. This demon in question is none other than suicide.

According to a report by the NCRB, 1,70,924 cases of suicide were recorded in only the year 2022 in India, a 4.2 per cent increase from 2021, making it the highest recorded rate over 56 years. Out of these cases, the maximum cases were that of 18 to 30 years old at a whopping 35 per cent followed by 30 to 45 standing at 32 per cent. The highest reported cause of these suicides was found to be family-related issues. (Data:

Imagine, the place where one is supposed to be the safest on earth, the people whom they can rely on at any moment, become the very reason they want to end their life. Be it pressure on young students to perform extremely well in exams, or a family feud putting stress on someone, adversities need to be battled but the battle wounds need to be tended to. Kaustubh Shiravanekar does this very thing- tends to unknown people's mental and emotional wounds, just out of his sheer will with Project Anamika.

When asked how a Standard Chartered banker who seems to be set in life started helping people, he narrated the poignant account of how Project Anamika was born. "In 2014, I met a girl on one of those anonymous chat apps. We instantly clicked! She was living in Delhi, studying in college, and had a real zeal for dancing. We used to talk for hours. She wanted to be a classical dancer, but both of her parents were reputed doctors, and they were against that. They wanted her to follow in their footsteps, constantly pressuring her to pursue MBBS after graduation. She was exhausted from constant fights. Sometimes, she had thoughts of running away or even taking her own life due to such matters weighing her down."

Students, especially engineering and medical, contribute largely to the astounding suicide rate numbers. "I still remember that day, December 23rd. She had a breakdown after a career dispute at home. The entire day, I was chatting with her, constantly making sure she was feeling okay and not getting too pressured by these things. At around midnight, I woke up shivering, with a bad feeling about something. I checked my phone and saw a message from her a few hours ago, just two words - ‘Goodbye…'"

"I was freaked out because she never used to say goodbye; it was always something like "see ya." I texted her on the app, but there was no reply. I frantically dialled 100. The officer on the other end patiently listened and helped me get connected to the Delhi Police, but those guys simply brushed me off, saying it was impossible to find someone with the limited details I was giving in a city like Delhi! I didn't even have her mobile number; all our communication was on that app, so tracking her wasn't possible. In the morning, I sent an email to the app developers, begging them to share her contact details so I could forward them to the authorities, but to no avail. They declined, citing privacy policy concerns. I felt rock bottom, helpless at that moment." The virtual walls seemed to have paralyzed Kaustubh, left feeling helpless. "It's been 10 years, and I never knew what happened to her. I had that app until it shut down in 2018, but she was never active again." After a year, on the same date, he started Project Anamika, a pseudonym of that anonymous full-of-life girl.

Explaining what project Anamika is, he said "It is a personal level self-sustained initiative to offer support, consolation, and a listening ear online or offline to any individual who feels depressed or like ending their life. Through this I am active online on multiple forums like Suicide Watch on Reddit, Quora where people post when they feel down and someone there like me offers informal counselling and life advice, helping them to get over such thoughts. In offline I just hear out my friends, and colleagues, just letting them know that they are not alone someone is always there for them." He does not even remember an approximate number of the many people he has helped, saying that he just does his part and moves on.

He mentioned quite a memorable anecdote in his quest, that of a girl named Harmony Haagensen from the United States. "There is a group on FB, ‘A group where we all complain' where people just come and rant about everything they want and get it off their mind. Harmony was one of them, I saw one of her posts ranting about fate, she had lost her house to arson the previous night. Everyone got out but her dog didn't make it. She was devastated, losing her friend, house everything in just a few hours. I just pinged on her messenger, thought would offer some good words. We talked a bit, she was quite depressed much to the point that she had lost the will to live. For a few days, I kept in constant touch and talked her out of it. Eventually, her family recovered, and things got better. She assured me that it was all okay and she was hopeful for the future. This case has a special place in my heart cause after recovering Harmony promised me to continue the chain and be the person I was for her if she ever gets a chance. Also, each Sunday she visits Pie's grave and puts a flower on it by my name, creating an emotional bond, which gives me goosebumps to date!"

Kaustubh is a testament to how just a "Hope you are well", or a "Everything will fall in place" might become the best thing ever to happen to that person. With small but impactful steps like this we can, in the maestro Michael Jackson's words, "heal the world, make it a better place".

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