Just don't do it...help is a phone call away

22 November,2010 06:54 AM IST |   |  Poornima Swaminathan

Anonymity and alienation that comes along with urban life is nibbling into Mumbai's psyche, making the populace an emotionally weak lot

Anonymity and alienation that comes along with urban life is nibbling into Mumbai*s psyche, making the populace an emotionally weak lot.

With a deep dent on mental health, suicides in the city are on the rise. Mumbai records an average of four suicides a day, while Navi Mumbai records three a week and Thane district has 10 a week.

While several go unrecorded due to stigma, many suicides, mostly those on railway tracks, are closed down as accidents.

Make that call

Mumbai, a city of 1.2 crore and counting, has half a dozen suicide helplines out of which two offer round-the-clock services.
On an average, each helpline receives at least 20 calls a day, from different strata and across age groups.
Counsellors attending the helplines usually receive softer calls from callers who are desperate and need to channelise their pent up feelings.

Most of the callers are students, who are either unable to cope with exam pressure or have issues dealing with a love affair or highly stressed professionals.

Psychologists in the city have witnessed a disturbing pattern in the last couple of years suicides have ceased to have a pattern. Earlier, there would be a spurt during exams and soon after the results.

"However, in the last couple of years, that has changed. With tolerance levels decreasing, people take the extreme step with the slightest provocation," said Dr Harish Shetty, a practicing psychiatrist.
"Help at the right time is the key to thwart suicidal tendencies," he added. Currently, emotional turbulence and financial stress top the list that triggers suicidal tendencies, pointed out experts.

With the list of demands increasing, the pressure builds up, ultimately leading to a collapse. That*s when the helplines play a major role.

"Our job is distress alleviation, which essentially gets the disturbed person out of the crisis by listening to them while they talk about their problems," said Kabir, a volunteer with Aasra, a 24-hour suicide helpline.
Kabir has been associated with the helpline for the last 13 years, counselling distressed callers.

"Once the caller feels better, he/she is in a better frame of mind to think on their own and take rational decisions," he said. There are times when the counsellors themselves feel low and frustrated, listening to distressed calls.

"Since we deal with a lot of negative emotions, sometimes, we too get negative. There is a support system which helps us deal with it," saidu00a0 another volunteer, requesting anonymity.

Suicide patterns
In the last 20 years, experts in Mumbai have recorded au00a0 pattern of suicide cluster incidents.

1 During the 1980s after the closure of mills, a spurt of suicide from the mill worker community was recorded

2 After the Harshad Mehta scam, several investors and sub brokers in the stock market committed suicide after they failed to cope up with the financial losses

3 A similar pattern was recorded after the Ketan Parekh scam broke out

4 Suicides are on the rise shortly after the SSC and HSC results are declared

5 Youngsters who fail to cope with emotional turbulence in relationships often resort to killing themselves

Volunteers in helplines on the slide

With pressures of everyday life increasing, the number of volunteers to do social work, including working in suicide helplines, has reduced in the last 5-6 years.

All helpines in the city have recorded a decrease in the number of volunteers. "The volunteers undergo a training session where they are taught to handle distress calls and counsel them," said one of the volunteers.

Earlier social workers and college students would undergo training and offer their services to contribute to society.

"However, with urban pressures increasing, we have seen lesser people coming forward to offer their services," he added.

Average number of suicides in Mumbai every day

Number of suicide helplines that function round-the-clock

Average number of calls that one suicide helpline gets every day

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Suicide helpline
Aasra 24 hours, Navi Mumbai: 27546667/9
Maitra Helpline: 25385447
Vandrevala Foundation*s 24-hour: 25706000

suicides mental health railway tracks mumbai
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