Mental health experts highlight role of ‘Gatekeepers’ in suicide prevention | India News

NEW DELHI: Every year one of the premiere mental health institutions – the Institute of Human Behaviour and Allied Sciences (IHBAS) based in the national Capital sees anywhere between 150 to 180 patients classified as high risk to suicides.
They are now following up on the cases of 144 high risk patients who were treated between July 2018 to June 2019. The idea is to bring focus on not just early treatment of mental health issues like depression but the need for gatekeepers within the family and community who have the potential to prevent attempts of suicide.
In many cases, where a person with suicidal thoughts did not attempt suicide, IHBAS director, Dr Nimesh Desai said they found that three key protective factors – integrated families, social and spiritual support, playing a critical role in prevention.
Experts caution that hints that a person may attempt suicide are always there and therefore those around must be alert to them for timely action. Practitioners are now drawing attention to the role of gatekeepers.
Infact, the idea of a gatekeeper is strongly emphasised in a manual available on the website of the directorate general of health services of the ministry of health. For training of facilitators down to the district level, the manual titled “Living Life Positively” states that similar to CPR (Cardiopulmonary resuscitation) which saves life if an individual has stopped breathing, a simple method -QPR (Question, Persuade and Refer) can help save many lives by preventing suicide. This involves exploring if someone has thoughts and plans about suicide, persuading him/her to seek help and guiding them to a referral so that the individual gets timely help.
While emphasising on prevention through early intervention, Professor Pratap Sharan from AIIMS department of psychiatry said that studies showthat suicides are higher among young women in their 20s and early 30s in India when compared to the western countries where there are more cases among older men. This needs more in-depth study to work on preventive strategies. He also pointed that the maximum cases of death by suicide are caused by organophosphorus poisoning in India and therefore there for policies to regulate the sale and storage of pesticides.
Recognising the challenges, AIIMS has also set-up a task force in the department of psychiatry in the backdrop of cases of their own fraternity from AIIMS dying by suicide over the years. They are working on a strategy to mitigate the factors and focus on prevention.
According to sources, over the decade, almost one or two cases of death by suicide involving AIIMS fraternity – including mostly resident doctors and undergraduate medical students have been reported every year. This year there have been three cases – one resident doctor, a researcher and one student, sources said.
Meanwhile, the ministry of social justice launched a 24×7 mental health rehabilitation helpline on Monday named “KIRAN” (1800-500-0019). Steered by the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DEPwD), the inclusive helpline is reflective of the signs of the current times. In the face of growing incidence of mental illness in the backdrop of Covid-19 pandemic the government feels it will fill the gap, as so far, there was absence of a universal dedicated helpline in respect of rehabilitation services for mental illness, to provide first stage counselling and advice.

[Source :Times of India]


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