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Healing touch for the harried
- Metro mulls counselling centres to check suicide bids

The suicide count on the Metro tracks may be shooting up at an alarming pace, but hope for help seems bleak at the end of the tunnel.

Though Metro Rail authorities feel setting up counselling centres might check the trend, Anubhav, the voluntary organisation which started an awareness campaign at Metro stations two years ago, has wrapped up its operations this year.

With Sunday’s suicide, followed by another attempt on Tuesday, the number of deaths in the Metro has climbed up to 47, since 1988. Of the 106, who attempted suicide during this period, 80 were men and 26 women. While around 41 men died, the number of female casualties was six. According to Metro Railway statistics, 2001-02 recorded the highest number of attempts — 21. This year, there have been seven attempts and three deaths.

The Metro statistics further revealed that the maximum number of suicide bids took place at Kalighat and Esplanade stations, each registering 13 attempts.

“The only way to check suicides on the underground tracks is by bringing the victims out of distress,” said Paramita Mitra Bhowmick, clinical psychologist at Anubhav. The organisation launched its campaign in September 2001 with a workshop at Maidan station, roping in psychiatrists to raise awareness on mental health.

“We receive around three patients a week who are regular commuters of Metro,” said Bhowmick, who felt setting up counselling centres at different centres would help. “But finance is a big problem,” she added.

“It is important to raise awareness on mental health. But getting any permission from the Metro authorities is a big hassle, too, and sometimes it would take a full day,” said a spokesperson for the organisation.

While Anubhav blamed the Metro Rail authorities for not extending a helping hand, the railway management said it was always ready to provide support.

Denying the charge levelled by Anubhav, deputy chief operations manager, Metro Railway, A.K. Samanta said: “We have no problem in giving permission to such campaigns. Organisations working for the distressed are welcome, but they do not contact us. We are willing to provide them space for campaigns.”

“A person determined to take his life might change his mind after a counselling session at such centres. This can really be very effective. A humane approach to the problem is the only way out,” he added.

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