Madhya Pradesh: Bhopal psychiatrist launches Twitter campaign for suicide prevention policy

Bhopal: A psychiatrist from the city has launched a social media campaign demanding a national policy on suicide prevention.

Satyakant Trivedi, consultant psychiatrist, Bansal Hospital, has appealed to the people to tweet Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) with #suicidepreventionpolicy on September 10 – the World Suicide Prevention Day. He has also urged Indian Psychiatric Society, IIT and medical students to join the campaign on the day.

“If the PMO twitter handle is flooded with such messages demanding that the government should make a policy for prevention of suicides, it may persuade the policy-makers to do something about it,” he told Free Press

Trivedi said that a policy for prevention of suicides was a national need. “Such policies are in place in many countries of the world including the UK and Australia but unfortunately, there is no such policy in India,” he said.

Suicide is a major cause of death of people falling in the age bracket of 15-40 years – the most productive age group in any society. According to WHO, globally suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15-29 year-olds. A latest study by National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS), Bengaluru, shows that in India among adults of 18 years or above, a staggering one in twenty persons has ‘suicidality’ (thoughts, plans, attempts and acts inflicted by oneself with an intent to end life).

“For every person who dies by suicide, 15 attempt suicide and 200 have suicidal thoughts,” said Dr Trivedi. According to the mind doctor, suicides are entirely preventable as mental illnesses have a role to play in 90 percent cases of suicide. “Raising awareness on mental illnesses with the objective of prevention of suicide would contribute majorly to the nation’s productivity and wellness of its people and enhance quality of life,” he said.

Trivedi said that due to the lack of awareness and the stigma attached to mental problems, people do not view suicidal thoughts as a disease of the mind which can be treated and cured.

A national policy of suicide prevention would help assess the risk groups viz. students appearing in competitive exams, farmers, etc and draft special strategies for them. It may also solve the problem of a shortage of psychiatrists in the country. “Today, the situation is that even if a person wants to get professional help, he/she doesn’t know where to go and what to do,” he said.

The recent death of a film actor by suicide has become a national issue and the media is running countless stories on various aspects of the incident. The media, however, is glamourising and romanticising the issue rather than focusing on the basic issue why a successful and young actor ended his life? Even the medicines prescribed to him have been made public which is wrong. “After the SSR death, I have received around 35 cases of people complaining they fear that they would also take a similar step,” the doctor said.

He said that loss of jobs, anxiety and uncertainty due to COVID-19 have enhanced the cases of mental illnesses. According to WHO, the incidence of mental ailments has gone up by 30% to 50% since the pandemic began. This is another reason why we urgently need a policy, Dr Trivedi said.

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