Srinagar: Sixteen-year-old Rouf (name-changed) was recently not allowed to sit in the class. The reason being his school fees were pending for the last two months.
“He felt humiliated in front of his classmates and kept thinking about it. He refused to go back to school and isolated himself in the room. Subsequently, he developed suicidal inclinations. Our clinical psychologist spoke to him at length. She made him feel secure, heard, and understood. Now he is much better and has returned to school,” the psychiatrist working under the newly launched suicide prevention helpline, `Zindagi’ said.
A lot of callers in the age group of 15 to 20 have a fragile self-image. “They are not prepared to accept rejection or failure. They say that they are under high pressure to perform and be liked by everyone.”
Take the case of 16-year-old Mayam (name-changed) who called on the helpline to seek help. “The young caller spoke to our psychologist for hours because a close friend had suddenly stopped talking to her. She felt rejected. Sometimes, the issue may seem trivial but may affect the person a lot. In these moments, a person needs an emphatic ear. Our psychologist did not dismiss her problem. Rather she listened and made her feel valued and appreciated at the same time,” he said.
Also, 50 percent of all phone calls received are related to heartbreak, financial distress in the family, failing marriages, or failing to live up to parental expectations, according to the mental health experts working with the toll-free helpline.
“Not everyone who calls is suicidal. But if they don’t receive adequate attention in time, they may eventually start displaying suicidal tendencies. Our helpline aims to give that timely help,” he said.
`Zindagi’, the helpline – 18002701008– has been recently created by the Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, (IMHANS) in collaboration with a Non-Government Organization, SRO, Kashmir.
The helpline aims to offer suicide prevention counseling, first aid, psychological support, distress management, mental wellbeing, promoting positive behavior, and psychological crisis management. It operates from 6 pm to 11 pm every day.
“Since the pandemic broke out, we have seen an increase in the number of suicides in Kashmir. That was really a final push for us to work dedicatedly towards mental health issues and suicide prevention among the community,” Director SRO Kashmir, Mohammad Afaaq Sayeed told The Kashmir Monitor.
He said in collaboration with IMHANS, Kashmir, they finalized the whole idea. “It took us eight months to train the psychiatrists, psychologists, and interns associated with the helpline. A team from Mumbai was sent to train them and impart the necessary communication skills required in such situations,” Sayeed said.
Currently, the helpline is backed by 12 psychiatrists and 12 clinical psychologists. “When 18002701008 is dialed from any mobile phone or landline of any telecom network, the callers will then be connected to mental health experts who will help to resolve the issue or refer and connect to external help (clinical psychologists or psychiatrists),” an official from IMHANS said.
He emphasized that the helpline will function as a lifeline to provide timely advice, counseling, and psychological support.
Sayeed emphasized that the toll-free will be made functional 24*7 in the coming months. “For now, it’s working in a particular time slot. Usually, suicidal tendencies emerge in the evening hours. That’s when the support is needed the most. On average, we receive around 4-5 calls,” he said.
He maintained that the helpline will ensure the patient’s identity is not disclosed. “Mental health is already attached with stigma here. When you talk of suicide, the stigma gets doubled so we are ensuring that the patient doesn’t have to reveal their identity. The specialists and psychologists involved in this don’t have access to caller-ID. Our data is totally secure. Only the HOD concerned and admin has access to the call record,” he said.
Besides, SRO is handling the technical part, our volunteers are available for any help and ambulances are there to evacuate the distressed, he said.