Mumbai :The cause for farmers’ depression is multi-factorial including economical, agricultural, health and household issues which make them feel hopeless and helpless leading to suicidal tendencies, stated psychiatrists and Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) workers who have been dealing with farmers since the past six months under the ‘PrernaPrakalp’ project. Meanwhile, the state-wide-toll-free mental health helpline ‘104’ has received 2,047 calls related to farmers’ issues since its inception in February last year.
The project was initiated to address and combat the mental health problems of farmers and help them in leading a positive life. At the initial stage, the ASHA workers visit farmers at their homes, interact with them and their families to understand their day-to-day difficulties. Following this, the farmers are screened for their health problems to find out if they are suffering from any diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, cancer or TB.
SonuSute, ASHA worker from Khursapar village in Nagpur district, said, “Under this project, we visit farmers and their families on a regular basis wherein we start interacting with them about their daily struggles at workplace and at home. The farmers do not open up about their difficulties and grief in the very first meetings; some of them don’t say anything even after five or six interactions. Hence, we approach the farmer’s wife and children who state that their father tried to commit suicide in the past, hit the family members, ran away from home or is addicted to alcohol or drugs.”
Following the interactions, depending on the severity of the situation, the farmers are categorized into mild, moderate and severe groups and accordingly treatment and counseling is provided. “If a farmer is falling into the severe category, then we call up on ‘104’ helpline and after discussing with the concerned officials, we direct the farmers to the mental district hospital for further treatment and counselling,” added Sute.
DrSudarshanHarle, psychiatrist for district hospital in Wardha, said, “During the counselling, we have learnt that illiteracy, labour bondage and alcohol addiction are the major reasons for farmer suicides. There were cases wherein farmers committed suicide with an objective that their families will get money after their death whereas other farmer gulped down poison in front of the ministers in the assembly. The farmers do not have any insurance or other sources for earning money and they have taken huge loans for their agricultural purposes.”
Psychiatrists add that the government should provide farmers with a blanket treatment which covers their savings and provides medical treatment which will give them safety of their future. “Following the treatment, we have noticed great improvement among farmers and no suicides are reported in our district. But, we need a long-term solution which can put an end to their core-route issues and this can be dealt by the government by providing necessary measures,” added Dr Harle.
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