“Who told you to fall in love? Couldn’t you see that the boy was not that into you?” said the counselor when Priya made a frantic call to a private suicide helpline.
“I just wanted to talk. I was disturbed; I thought someone with a calm soothing voice will make me feel better. But I found the counselor to be commanding and dominating rather than listening to me and understanding my problem he seemed to be judgmental. To my horror after some time I heard him munching chips while I poured my mind out and spoke to him about my plans to commit suicide”, said Priya.
As per rounded figures on suicides provided by National Crime Records Bureau in 2012 on an average, 15 suicides an hour or 371 suicides a day were recorded. According to a World Health Organization (WHO) report, Youngsters in the age group of 15-29 years accounted for the highest rate of suicide per 100,000 population in India during the same time. These alarming statistics pushed us to test a few suicide helpline numbers for credibility and dexterity to help a person in need.
Marina made a call to a private helpline and the response was shocking, “I told the counselor I have a lot of issues in my life which I am not able to handle and rather than asking me what my issues were she calmly told me that her shift was over and hence she won’t be able to talk to me, she asked me to call in 15 mins which was the expected time of arrival of the next counselor.” “I still persisted that I want to talk now, as I am not able to take the pressure of living my life and was considering ending it but the counselor kept telling me to call later, by the end of it she told me you don’t call I’ll ask the counselor to call you to which not knowing what else to say I agreed and hung up. The call back came 45minutes later which I didn’t pick up to see if they try to call more times but that didn’t happen, I think by then a real victim would have committed suicide”.
An online search on suicide helplines gives out only 4 private organization numbers as options for the people of Mumbai, finding a government helpline was a task in itself, after much scavenging a helpline was found, it belonged to a leading government hospital, which came up only if you specifically searched for their psychiatric department.
On contacting them Pramod came across a peppy counselor who asked him the purpose of his call and also ways in which she could help him. “If I were a real stressed out teenager who is looking for solutions to my own problems in life, desperate to end my life; would now have to help the counselor in finding solutions for myself which the counselor is paid and expected to do for me, if I knew the answers to my problems why would I call in the first place? She even said that only help on call would be possible and anything other than that should not be expected, what can a distressed person wanting to die expect? The government helpline staff should definitely be more trained to deal with callers.
Suicide and depression helplines ought to be advertised and maintained more efficiently to get better results. Are helplines really helpful then? In some cases, yes, but they should be of help to all callers, after all they are the last thread for a dying person to hold on rather than let go!!!
Disclaimer: Excerpts from real telephonic conversations to helplines, names of callers and suicide helplines withheld to protect identity. This post was first published in Marginalia 2014-15 by SCM Sophia. Adapted by Leading Lines.