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Industry Research : Tackling the Blues, One Call at a Time
Sixty-five per cent of people who called the BMC's mental health helpline over the last eight months were men, according to data collected by those manning the civic body's 'Life is Beautiful-Hitguj' phone lines.
A majority of these were in the age group of 21-40 and were facing some sort of financial trouble, which in turn resulted in social and domestic discord, the data showed.
The last eight months saw 3,119 people calling the helpline, of which 2027 were men. More than half of these calls were from out of Mumbai.
The BMC had started the Hitguj helpline in May 2013 to tackle what it saw as a steep rise in the number of people afflicted with depression.
With Hitguj, which means a personal conversation in Marathi, the civic body hoped to reach out to such people and also cut down the suicide rate in the city. The helpline was an instant success, with the helpline receiving 100 calls a day on an average. Ten professional counsellors man the helpline 24x7.
"A person who is depressed or is contemplating suicide feels an overwhelming urge to speak to someone and be heard," said Shubhangi Parkar, head, psychiatry department, KEM Hospital.
"A fruitful conversation in this 'golden period' helps remove such thoughts from their minds and pull them out of the mire they find themselves in. Many people attempt suicide as they don't have anyone to speak to or share their problems."
The data puts 19 per cent of the callers under what it terms common mental disorder. This includes depression and anxiety.
Another 19.5 per cent of callers have been categorised as being in depression due to social causes. A majority of these are caused by financial trouble, leading to problems with their spouses and families.
"After a few weeks, we realised that inflation may be the cause behind most people's problems," said Parkar. "We found that even those from financially sound families were finding it hard to meet their daily needs. This results in increased tension in the family and social circles. Many a time, there are fights between husband and wife due to the family's financial situation."
Around 6 per cent of callers, the study said, were suffering from abnormal psychosis. This includes people who have grappled with psychic problems in the past and who still exhibit symptoms even after completing their treatment. They may feel restless, hear voices in their head, or just feel lonely.
"In such cases, we suggest that they immediately visit the nearest mental health clinic or a counsellor," said Parkar.
"There are also cases where our employees counsel them at length over the phone. We try to understand the root cause of their problems and advice them."
She said a minor percentage of students also called the helpline in desperation about not doing well in studies. "Normally they are unable to understand why they are unable to concentrate on their studies," said Parkar.
"They also speak about how their parents are putting undue pressure on them to score high marks. We tell them to take frequent breaks while studying and not to be distracted by things like video games, surfing or television. We also try to encourage them to ignore their parents' negative words and just concentrate on their studies."
» The majority of callers were men between the ages of 21 and 40
» More than half of all calls were from outside Mumbai.
» According to the data, 19 per cent of callers suffered from 'common mental disorders' including mild depression and anxiety.
» Another 19.5 per cent of callers were categorised as being in depression because of social causes.
» Around 6 per cent of callers, the study said, suffered from abnormal psychosis.
» A minor percentage of students also called in desperation about not doing well in studies
» In a majority of cases, financial woes lead to marital discord
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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Published: Monday, October 7, 2013