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Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Article mentioning AASRA in Mumbai Mirror,IndiaTimes

#SuicidePreventionFortnight1to15Sept #WorldSuicidePreventionDay10thSept

Dealing with the death itch

Dealing with the death itch
What can you see when a suicidal thought is at its overpowering best? Top city psychiatrists on the immediate plan of action.

When star comedian Robin Williams ended his life at his Marin County home on Monday, it once again became evident that the veteran had been battling depression for a decade. Williams is a face, a famous one, of a silent epidemic sweeping the world. According to estimates by the World Health Organisation, a life is lost to suicide every 40 seconds. India-specific figures are just as gloomy.

Crisis intervention centre Aasra says suicide is one of top three causes of death among Indians aged 15 to 35. Almost 1 lakh people commit suicide every year in the country. Mumbai loses three lives to suicide every day, and Navi Mumbai, two a week.

"Suicide is a last call for help from those who realise that traditional support systems have failed for them. They block out people from their lives, one by one. There comes a point when they stand isolated," says Johnson Thomas, director and co-founder of Aasra. The NGO runs a suicide prevention hotline and most of the calls it receives are from those who are at what experts call stage one - this is when they have just about begun to experience dark thoughts. More extreme stages involve exploring methods to end their lives, and planning how. A majority of Aasra's callers are aged 15 to 45.

Mirror spoke with four counsellors on effective ways to combat the first sign of suicidal thoughts.


Dr Kersi Chavda, Hinduja Hospital

The first rule is not to be alone. Get out of the house. Mumbai is teeming with people. Once you are in public space, it's impossible to feel isolated. It's an instant way to distract yourself. You are less likely to do something impulsive in the midst of a crowd. If you have family around, share with them what you are feeling, and encourage them to call for help. You needn't have a professional counsellor on speed dial. Even if you contact your neighbourhood GP, s/he will help you reach the right person. It can't be a friend trying to talk you out of this. You need a medically trained counsellor. Suicide moves from an occasional idea to a common one. Then it begins expressing itself all the time. It nudges you to prepare for it by acquiring implements that will aid the act. These are markers. If you experience them, seek help.


Varkha Chulani, Lilavati Hospital

I'd categorise the suicidal into two - those who've held on to hopeless feelings and planned their suicide, and two, those who panic and act impulsively to avoid the terrible that they imagine will happen. The first must evoke a pleasant memory from their past. It could be something that meant a great deal to you. The minute the mind evokes a pleasant picture, a dark thought is pushed to rung two. This serves as an immediate distraction and is a temporary solution. The second should imagine a blinking red traffic light as a preventive signal each time they are haunted by a negative thought. They could make a call to someone close, head out for a walk or take a shower. Indulge in an act that for the moment takes you away from the thought. The eventual move has to be to reach out to a psychiatrist.


Dr Yusuf Matcheswalla, JJ Hospital

Looking out for markers is the most important step you can take for yourself. A disrupted sleep pattern, situations where you find yourself easily reduced to tears, the feeling that the future is bleak — these are clear signs. Don't add to the burden by taking rash decisions. These include quitting your job or ending a relationship. Next, initiate an open dialogue with those you believe have hurt you. It could be your boss, ex-wife, boyfriend, best buddy. When you speak about an issue, you break it down into components. It leads to the realisation that you may have been magnifying it. Helplines are an immediate resource but not the solution. A credible and trained counsellor is your most effective solution.


Dr Pavan Sonar, Sanjeevani Hospital

Isolation leads to rumination, and encourages dismal thoughts. Speaking to someone, even if it is a stranger who is trained to help on a suicide prevention helpline, works momentarily. It works because if it's someone you don't know, and therefore, you're getting a non-judgmental opinion. The idea of a crisis intervention centre is to let a person vent. Alternatively, feel free to walk into a counselling centre, like the one at Parel's KEM Hospital. The act of making an appointment sometimes is enough deterrence. Make sure you stay away from any intoxicant. It only accelerates the low.

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