News : To Stop Suicides, Helpline Gets Student Squad
Bengaluru, India, June 23, 2016 -- With a rise in depression and suicide cases in the city, suicide helpline Sahai has tied up with city educational institutions and students to raise awareness.
About 13 colleges and 35 schools as part of the initiative. In Garden City College, the group comprises psychology students.
"Our group is called ATHMA, an acronym for Assistance and Training for Health and Mental Awareness," says semester V student Agastya Yeturi. "We were inspired by the 24/7 helpline, and when they asked, we decided to form this on-group."
The group spreads the message of suicide prevention through street plays and other light-hearted performances. Its work caught the attention of Nimhans, and the institute’s positive psychology unit sent Athma a letter of appreciation.
Anurag Shetty (name changed) failed in three subjects in college, and got called a ‘duffer’ at home for it. "My mother was an alcoholic and my father was never there," he tells City Express.
He gradually became withdrawn and took to drugs. "Drugs and pain were my escape," he says. "I would cut my hand, and feel worse about myself."
His grades fell further that year. "I would wonder what it would feel like if I just died," he says.
He decided to go through with it (in 2006). He was in his fifth semester then. "A friend noticed my struggle, and almost coerced into calling Sahai," he recounts.
He recalls that Anita Gracias, one who runs the helpline along with Akku Pehelajwani, was the one on the other end. "She spoke to me with compassion, and I poured my heart out. I felt relieved and decided to get my life back together," he says.
The volunteer put Shetty through to a counsellor, and with help, he quit drugs in two years.
He now works as a product manager at Deloitte, and is married. "I met my wife through mutual contacts, and we started dating," he offers. "She’s the only one, other than my friend and counsellor, I opened up to."
Gracias shares another case that has stayed with her over her 14 years with the helpline. "Once, a boy wanted to do engineering and joined a branch of his choice in a reputed college. But his father decided to do some cost cutting and enrolled him in a different college, in spite of his son’s requests not to," she says.
The youngster suffered from an eyesight problem, and appeared to constantly stare at the teacher in his class. "Instead of asking him about it, the teacher humiliated him in public," she says.
The boy had a break down and was soon hospitalised with Stage II depression. He pursued BE for seven years, but never completed it. Now he works as a mail separator at a post office.
Much later, his father called Gracias and said, "I don’t want that engineering degree, I just want my son back."
And she replied, "I wish I had a magic wand that I could wave to bring everything back to normal."
A 26-year-old, now working in the IT sector, first called the helpline in 2005.
"She had slit her hand from elbow to wrist, and was depressed," says Gracias.
Although she is still undergoing counselling she is among the volunteers who offers help to others who need it.
Instead of Socially Useful Productive Work (SUPW), schools should consider including communication and expression in the curriculum. I have noticed that migration is a key issue in a metropolitan city like Bengaluru. People living away from their families seek relationships that sometimes wither, causing depression.
The key to battling depression is to stay connected and not isolate oneself. Several social media groups, like Supermums of India, where age and profession are irrelevant, have helped thousands of women get through dark times.
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Published: Friday, June 24, 2016