COVID-19 scare doubled calls to suicide prevention helpline

Published: 11 September, 2020 11:22 IST | IANS | New Delhi

The period also saw the helplines of the suicide intervention centre receiving distress calls

Photo used for representational purpose
Photo used for representational purpose

Fear of contracting COVID-19, anxiety, and uncertainty due to the pandemic caused such a huge emotional distress that the number of calls received by suicide prevention helplines of a NGO here doubled during the lockdown.

Roshni, which gives emotional support to the depressed, received 50-60 calls per day since the lockdown began in March till June against 25-30 before the lockdown as people reached out to the NGO due to phobias, depression, anxiety, uncertainty and financial distress caused by the lockdown.

The period also saw the helplines of the suicide intervention centre receiving distress calls from those who lost their jobs or those fearing job loss, students confined to their homes and housewives who became victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse.

Roshni Director T. Ushasree told IANS that this was unprecedented for the organisation as it used to get maximum number of calls in a year during the exams.

The calls during lockdown were mainly due to fear of corona, she said. "The questions were like 'What if I am infected? What will happen to my family members? Will I be isolated at home or will I be taken to hospital? How is the hospital atmosphere? Will I come back or will I die'. Then there were calls asking 'how long will this continue' or 'will things ever get back to normal'."

She pointed out that it was all the more difficult for students as they were sitting at home with no friends and no games and sports due to closure of schools.

"For housewives, it became a very big task. All family members staying at home 24x7 for so many days caused a lot of friction among themselves and they couldn't show it to anybody else but the housewife. They had a lot of work handling the children and the spouses. We also got complaints of domestic violence and sexual abuse," she said.

Ushasree said people are still struggling because of loss of income, uncertainty about jobs, financial problems due to commitments like house and vehicle loans and children's education.

"This problem is faced by people all over the world. All they need is a person with whom they can share," she said.

This is how Roshni has been working as suicide intervention centre for last 23 years, providing emotional support to the depressed.

With 70 volunteers, the NGO is extending support to the depressed and suicidal, providing free and confidential service through helpline numbers 040-6620 2000/1.

Though working remotely due to Covid, its office in Secunderabad is otherwise always open for those who are comfortable talking face to face. It can also be reached over email at

The only NGO working for suicide prevention for both the Telugu states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, Roshni is a member of 'Befrienders Worldwide' an international organisation recognised by the United Nations.

"No situation or feeling is permanent and this applies to suicidal feelings also. It is a fact that if a suicidal person is supported for 36 to 48 hours, the feelings will pass. That is a crucial time when a person needs support. Many people would not commit suicide if they had someone who could listen to them," says the NGO chief, who believes that suicide is not a wish to die but a cry for help.

"Once a person unburdens himself by sharing his pain, he feels light. We make them think. We don't give solution to anyone. The solution should come from the caller himself. We discuss various options or choices available to the caller depending on their resources and their support systems."

"To call Roshini, one need not be depressed or suicidal also. Any emotional distress at that point of time when they feel like talking or sharing with someone they can just call us because nowadays, nobody has time for another person. We are here to listen to them," said Ushasree.

Over 800,000 people commit suicide annually around the world. This means one person dies by suicide every 40 seconds.

In India, 1,39,123 suicides happened in 2019. This is excluding the attempted and unreported ones. For every one suicide, 25 people make a suicide attempt and many more have serious thoughts of suicide. On an average, 135 people are affected by each suicide death.

In Telangana, 7,675 people died by suicide in 2019. Family disputes are said to be the primary cause. The other causes include financial health, relationship and education stress.

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