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Suicide prevention helplines in Bangalore badly in need of volunteers

There are several helplines in the city meant to help people with suicidal tendencies, but most are non-accessible in time of need.

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Blame it on the present day lifestyle—the rat race, be it in terms of education or career, peer pressure, stressful relationships or work pressure—incidents of suicides are on the rise in Bangalore. There are several helplines in the city meant to help people with suicidal tendencies, but most are non-accessible in time of need.

Any call to Sahai, a reputed suicide prevention helpline, between 6 pm and 9 am is answered by an answering machine. The authorities agree that a desperate and depressed person with a strong suicidal urge probably won’t wait till morning the next day to consult their counsellors, but they say they are helpless as they find it difficult to get volunteers to counsel during the night.

“We have 50-odd volunteers, but only 10 of us are regular. Not many continue volunteering for more than a few months, as it is a mentally tiring job. Sometimes, we need to listen to a person and counsel him over phone for hours together,” says Maya Lal, a volunteer who has been working with Sahai for the past five years.

To cater to this social menace, on the eve of World Suicide Prevention Day (on September 10), Spandana Nursing Home and Rehabilitation Centre, launched its suicide prevention helpline in the city. “This is a 24-hour helpline,” says Mani Madhavan, managing director, Spandana Rehabilitation Centre. “To start with, we are having three counsellors to man the helpline. With time, we are planning to recruit at least two more counsellors,” he says.

“As and when people call, our counsellors will discuss issues with them and convince them to come down and meet our psychologists. Immediate discussion gives a person temporary relief, while a psychologist can guide an individual to come out of depression. Every aspect of treatment, starting from counselling to medication, will be provided for free.” But he  also agrees that getting counsellors is a problem. “This nursing home has trained its nursing staff for counselling. We also have around five volunteers. But getting adequate time from them is difficult,” he says.

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