Pune group training youths to provide emotional aid, prevent suicides

Every year, more than 1,00,000 people commit suicide in India. Among the various known causes of suicides include family problems, financial distress, professional problems.

Based on the WHO gatekeeper model for preventing suicides, a ‘Yuva Manasmaitri’ campaign has been launched by Dr Hamid Dabholkar, psychiatrist and founder member of Parivartan — a non-government organisation that works on mental health issues. Training youngsters across 20 selected colleges, Dabholkar and the team at Parivartan aim at creating a treatment delivery model.

Every year, more than 1,00,000 people commit suicide in India. Among the various known causes of suicides include family problems, financial distress, professional problems, illness and others. National Crime Records Bureau collects data on suicides from police recorded suicide cases and according to the Central Statistics Office’s ‘Youth of India -2017’ report: “In the matter of suicides, the youth (18-30 years) is one of the vulnerable groups with 33 per cent share of total police recorded suicide cases.”

‘Family problems’ and ‘illness’ were the major causes of suicides in 2015, which accounted for 28 per cent and 16 per cent of total suicides, respectively. Out of the overall suicide victims, 68.5 per cent were men and 31.5 per cent women, according to the report. “Our primary objective of Yuva Manasmaitri campaign is to create a cadre of young volunteers who will be trained to step up awareness in youth about suicide-related issues, provide emotional first aid to those who are in need and refer them to appropriate services,” said Dabholkar, who is the son of slain rationalist Narendra Dabholkar.

Examination related stress, strained relationships with parents, problems in love relationships and career-related issues are some of the important reasons that lead to suicidal behaviour in youth. As part of its efforts to spread rationalism among youngsters, the Maharashtra Vivek Vahini — set up by Narendra Dabholkar — has started a Yuva Mansmaitri campaign recently. The team of psychiatrists and psychologists from Parivartan will train the volunteers, said Hamid Dabholkar.

The programme will be piloted in 20 colleges across Maha-rashtra, including Rajarambapu Institute of Technology, Islampur, Vivekanand college, Kolhapur, Yashwantrao Chavan Institute of Science, Satara, Shivaji College, Akola, Shahu college at Latur and several others at Pune and Beed. The first orientation workshop of 40 youth leaders from different parts of the state was conducted at Satara last month.

Yuva Manas mitra were trained in various topics like brief introduction to the human brain and mind, symptoms of emotional distress, reasons for suicidal behaviour and how to provide emotional first aid to the person in emotional distress. In next step, one-day workshops will be conducted at all 20 colleges by mental health experts. We aim to train 1,000 manas mitras (youth friends /volunteers) through this campaign, he said.

Dabholkar, who is the co-coordinator of the campaign, said the campaign is modeled on the WHO gatekeeper model for prevention of suicide .In the gatekeeper model, the entire focus is on increasing the number of gatekeepers in community who can provide timely help and referral to persons in distress. “We will also launch a social media campaign to spread the message to seek timely help if anybody is in emotional distress,” he added.

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