Press: Times Of India

SEPT 11, 2015

Need to identify and those with suicidal thoughts, say mental health experts:

MUMBAI: No one in Sunita’s BA classroom can guess that the brightest scholar in their classroom needed electric shocks a few years back to control her suicidal tendencies. She had, on more than one occasion, slased her wrists and run off to the terrace in depressive rage that were noticed in time by her parents.

“There is always hope. Youngsters should realize that they haven’t seen life yet. May be they have seen some ugly parts, but they have not lived long enough to see the best part yet,” said Sunita (name changed), who diligently undergoes counselling.

On the occasion of World Suicide Prevention Day on Thursday, experts stressed the need to identify people who have suicidal thoughts and intervene at the earliest.

At a function organized by Sisters Living Works, a recently formed NGO that works for suicide prevention, held at University of Mumbai’s Fort campus on Thursday, psychiatrist Dr Harish Shetty said every student should take on the role of a mental health soldier. In India, which the World Health Organization said has among the highest rate of suicide, self-appointed mental health soldiers could help offset the paucity of trained professionals.

“If a classmate hasn’t attended class for over week or suddenly his/her behavior has changed, the mental health soldier should seek out the person and ask if something is wrong,” said Dr Shetty. While the first attempt is likely to be futile, approaching the person a few times would help them open up.
The mental health soldier approach works. Dr Shetty spoke about five collegians who sought his help to help a classmate who had stopped attending college and didn’t appear for exams. “On their second visit, the boy confessed that he wanted to jump out of the window but his parents were keeping a vigil on him,” he said. The five students helped the boy connect with the college’s psychologist. “Today, the boy is pursuing law and counsels others.”

Sulabha Subramaniam of the Institute of Psychological Health in Thane said that people who are suicidal or undergoing a mental health crisis need to talk it out. “However, most of us wait for a signal from the person before intervening. We should realize that their minds are full of negative thoughts,” she said.

Gayatri Datta of Sisters Living Works said, “We should realize that there is no harm in asking a person if he or she is depressed.”