Mumbai: The tragic suicide of an 18-year-old IIT Bombay student on Sunday, has once again focused attention on suicide prevention helplines in the city.
The FPJ spoke to counselors of several helplines tasked with averting suicides.
One such helpline is M-Power, an NGO run by the Aditya Birla Group which is helmed by Neerja Birla and Ananya Birla. The NGO is closely working with the BMC for their suicide helpline. The number is 18002331250.
Over 100 calls a day
Counselors at M-Power receive at least 100 calls daily and most of them are men wanting to end their lives for a variety of reasons, including financial problems, failures in marriage or love life, death of a loved one, to name a few.
The callers are mostly between 18 to 40 years, said a counselor on the condition of anonymity. “Our helpline can receive only incoming calls. Hence, there is no way to find out what happens after we counsel someone."
Absence of relevant data
Interestingly, there is no data on the victim and there is no way of knowing to what extent the counseling has helped.
The counselor said, “the first thing we do when we get a call is to calm down the caller. We patiently listen to their grievances and try to talk out of their intention to end their lives.”
“If the caller has harmed themselves then we recommend medical treatment," she added.
“Students do not want to discuss their state of mind”
Additionally, she mentioned that students under the burden of studies or careers do not call as most of them are not legal adults and thus require parental counseling, hence most such cases do not arise as students do not want to discuss their state of mind with their parents as they feel afraid.
She said “If at all we receive calls from students facing suicidal thoughts due to career pressure, we tell them to communicate with their parents about the stress.”
“If things get too dire, we refer the child to 1098 India Childline which is run by the government and they take necessary steps,” she added.
“Difficult to reach out to callers after they end the call”
A volunteer at The Samaritans, one of the oldest helplines in the country, said, “Since the calls are anonymous and we cannot even access the contact numbers of the callers. It is difficult for us to reach out to them after they ended the calls with us. It is only possible to know about their state if they call back at a later date.”
Moreover, a Mumbai-based NGO, Hitguj’s counselors told us, due to the anonymity and confidentiality of the callers a follow-up call was not possible.
A call made to iCall, a helpline which is a part of the mental health project started by the School of Human Ecology of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), went unanswered despite repeated calls.
(To receive our E-paper on WhatsApp daily, please click here. To receive it on Telegram, please click here. We permit sharing of the paper's PDF on WhatsApp and other social media platforms.)