Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh): Incorporation of stress-management techniques in the curricula of schools, appointment of counsellors, training of teachers for identifying students prone to harming themselves and helpline number may help prevent suicides among the young.
In an interview with the Free Press, senior psychiatrist Dr Satyakant Trivedi said that these and several other measures may form a part of the recommendations to be made by the Suicide Prevention Task Force, appointed by the state government, for drawing up a Suicide Prevention Policy for the state. Madhya Pradesh is the first state in the country to take an initiative in this regard.
Dr Trivedi, who has been pleading for the formulation of a suicide prevention policy for long, is secretary of the task force, which comprises social workers, legal experts and sociologists, among others. Six sub-committees have been constituted to dwell on different dimensions of the issue, which will submit their reports to the Task Force, which in turn will make its recommendations to the state government within a period of three months.
Dr Trivedi said that after road accidents, suicides are the second biggest cause of death in the 15-50 years age group, the most productive section of the population. Of the persons committing suicides, 8% are students. “And suicides are eminently preventable,” he said.
Dr Trivedi said that while schools lay great emphasis on academics and physical health of the students, mental health is rarely talked about. “Academic stress, born out of cut-throat competition, is the key cause of suicides among school children. At the same time, it is also true that out of the lakhs of students who fail examinations or who score lesser marks than they hoped for, do not end their life. Only a few do that. That means some have a mechanism to cope with stress, failures and disappointments, while others lack it,” he said.
Dr Trivedi said that the number of psychologists and psychiatrists is limited and hence we need to develop a mechanism in the schools to identify vulnerable students and counsel them, he said.
Dr Trivedi said that suicide is a multi-sectoral and multi-dimensional problem. “The reasons for suicides may be social, economic and psychological. But the key to resolving the problem is to ensure that suicide is not a option for those facing stress of any kind,” he said.
He said that one way can be to limit access to the means for committing suicide like poisonous substances, insecticides, guns etc. Better communication within the family can also help. The mind doctor said that religious and spiritual leaders can also be of immense help. “When faced with adversity, problems of stress, religion can be a powerful coping mechanism,” he said. Similarly, NGOs, social activists, police and media also have a role to play in prevention of suicides.
He said that an awareness campaign on mental health would go a long way in combating the tendency of harming yourself. “People should realise that like the body, the mind can also fall sick and that sicknesses of the mind can be treated. They should also know when to seek professional help,” he said.
He said that a control on suicides would also reduce violence in society. “One who tends to harm himself may also harm others,” he said.
Dr Trivedi said that the Task Force would also study the best practices on suicide prevention in the world and adapt them to the Indian conditions.
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