The 34-years-old actor Sushant Singh Rajput had committed suicide last Saturday, now as per the reports, he was struggling with severe depression and which is said to be the reason behind this extreme step. This step of Sushant has brought the spotlight on the mental health of people and the mental helplines numbers.
After the death of the actor, many people on social media started sharing details of helplines and other prevention resources. But most of the numbers being circulated are incorrect and most numbers are unavailable at night, on weekends, and even during ‘business hours’.
Suicide Cases in India
Suicide is the second leading most common cause of death in both the age groups of 15–29 years and 15–39 years. As per whom about 800,000 people die by suicide globally every year and out of these 135,000 are residents of India. The age-standardized suicide rate in India is 16.4 percent, 100,000 for women (6th highest in the world), and 25.8 for men (ranking 22nd).
These are hard, cold facts and painful examples of how much work we need to do as a society for suicide prevention.
Unavailability of Help Line Numbers
Most of the helplines state on their websites that their services are only available during certain hours but there are helplines that claim 24×7 availability but these helplines often unable to provide help even during the working hours also, maybe due to a shortage of funds or volunteers.
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As per the survey by The Print, in which they called up five such helplines at 10 pm on Sunday, of which only Navi Mumbai-based Aasra answered and on Monday at 1 pm, called seven different helplines, of which only Gujarat-based Vandrevala Foundation’s 24×7 Jeevan Aastha helpline answered, after not receiving the call previous evening.
Mumbai-based Parivartan Trust also answered Monday afternoon, on a number listed on its website but different from the one circulating on social media. The Fortis Stress helpline was also available Monday afternoon and around 10 pm the same evening and The Print found that even claim of availability during ‘business hours’ is incorrect.
Dr. Samir Parikh, Psychiatrist and the Director of Department of Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences, Fortis Healthcare said to E Times that “There are many people who start suicide prevention helplines, then shut it over time but their numbers are still there.”
Dr. Hamid Dabholkar, a psychiatrist at Parivartan Trust in Maharashtra told The Print that “Due to the shortage of manpower and funding’s most of the helplines are not available all the times and also that there are not experts to deal with a suicidal individual.”
Impact of COVID on Mental Health
Coronavirus and lockdown have mostly affected the life of the people by rising mental illness. According to The National Mental Health Survey of India (2015-16), at least 10% of Indians suffer from a mental health issue and had risen sharply by 15% in 2017.
According to the Indian Psychiatric Society, within a week of starting lockdown, the number of reported cases of mental illness has escalated by 20%. As per the 24X7 BMC-Mpower, at 1on1 Helpline, they have received over 40,000 calls, from all over Maharashtra and other states and around 44% of the calls were for mental health issues.
How to Fix the Problem
The one call for help can make all the difference to the life of someone. When people feel depressed, thought of suicide, the helpline numbers are last resort people try as one of the most accessible ways’ to connect with counselors and get assistance.
Dr. Achal Bhagat, Senior Consultant Psychiatrist and Psychotherapist told E Times “We need a referral network. If a mentally ill person calls a helpline, the person should be able to direct them to someone. Also, there should be some system for them to get this person immediate help, like the 100 number.” The expert counselors and volunteers should be increased for helplines.