Suicide Prevention Day: If you write a post related to ‘suicide’ on Facebook or search this word on Google, the phone number 9152987821 flashes on your screen and comes with the text, ‘You can get help, talk to a counselor today.’ This is the number of a call center of Mumbai’s NGO iCALL. iCALL started in 2012 by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences‘ School of Human Ecology. The objective was to make the facility of mental health accessible to every citizen of the country. Two years ago, in 2018, iCall joined Google and Facebook as a mental health partner.
25 professional mental health counselors work with iCALL in different shifts. Counseling in several local languages including Hindi and English from 8 in the morning to 10 in the night. Prerna Yadav is associated with iCALL as a program coordinator. Talking on the phone, she explains, ‘Our helpline is in Pan India. All our counselors are able to speak in Hindi and English. Also we work in local languages like Marathi, Punjabi, Malayalam, Bangla and Kannada.’
By March this year, 100 to 150 calls were received every day in the call center. Prerna Yadav says, “I don’t have exact numbers but I can say with such a claim that more phones are coming after lockdown.” In view of this, we started two more telephone lines in April. One for this is playing a key role in the fight against Corona. Second for those who are upset or feeling depressed due to corona or lockdown. ‘
Now the question arises if a person is upset. If he is thinking of taking steps like suicide or is depressed for any reason, can counseling only solve his problem? Ramita Jha (name changed) lives in Delhi. She is a journalist by profession. While studying for her masters, Ramita has presented her research-report on mental health. While working, there came a time when she felt the need of a counselor. Recalling her experience, Ramita says, “It was very strange. I went for the counseling and they sent me back with sleeping medicine.”
I wanted to share my problems with them, they did not listen. I did not take that medicine. You can say after that I did counseling of myself, and I am fine now. Ramita says that counseling is very important in this case. More than half of the suffering of a victim ends up by counseling from a qualified counselor at the right time. The need for counseling in the matter of mental health has also been recognized by the central government. On September 8, a 24X7 helpline has been launched to provide psychological support on behalf of the Central Social Justice and Empowerment.
National 24X7 helpline “Kiran” 1800-599-0019
The government has started the helpline ‘Kiran’ (1800-599-0019). In which advice and counseling will be provided in Hindi, Assamese, Tamil, Marathi, Odia, Telugu, Malayalam, Gujarati, Punjabi, Kannada, Bangla, Urdu and English. In the last few years, there has been a lot of increase in mental stress and suicide cases in India. According to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), one in every seven Indians suffer from mental health problems. Counselors and psychiatrists believe that anxiety-related mental health problems, such as OCD and anxiety disorders, have seen an increase of 20 to 25 percent since the corona epidemic in the country.
Experts believe that due to the lockdown, large number of people have become frustrated and due to this, the incidence of suicide has increased. There is no concrete data on the number of suicides in these six months, but the Noida Police, adjoining Delhi, says that since January, a total of 195 suicides have taken place in the district and 74% of them have occurred between April and August. The police have also told that the reason behind these suicides is loss of job and problems in personal relationships.