The office of Jeevan at Bistupur. (Animesh Sengupta)
If preventing suicide was a mission for a few in Jamshedpur, it will be a mass crusade from now.
Jeevan, the centre for suicide prevention in the steel city where 19 persons have already taken their lives in January 2013, has recently teamed up with Tata Steel to widen its campaign ambit on two fronts — more tele-counselling hours and volunteers.
Within a month, the centre will increase its counselling to eight hours from four. At present, the helpline number (0657) 6453841 is open from 2pm to 6pm. The new timings will be from 10am to 6pm in two four-hour slots each.
What’s more, the first-of-its-kind Reach Out, an event organised by Tata Steel, Jeevan, Loyola School alumni, Rotarians and teachers held on February 21 at the Centre for Excellence evoked tremendous response.
As many as 31 persons evinced interest to become counselling volunteers.
So far, Jeevan had only 18 volunteers.
“It was a small, hour-long interaction, but the response was huge. I think we will host more such events. We are already in the process of raising counselling hours to eight per day. The ultimate aim is to make it 24/7. As far as volunteer counsellors go, gradually we will get more. It won’t be an instant process as aspiring volunteers have to undergo two rounds of selection and a training,” said Jeevan director M. Ram.
The centre on an average gets a call per day. What is worrying is that of the 365-odd calls, 50 per cent display suicidal tendencies.
As anyone in mental health circles knows, talk therapy is a responsible job. It is not the same as giving a pep talk or even listening intently. When a depressed or stressed person calls up Jeevan, the volunteer at the other end has to understand and empathise with the caller’s mental state and take the cues from there to lead him or her into a more positive frame of mind.
For now, interested candidates will fill up a form to be sent to Lifeline Foundation, a member of Befrienders’ India Network, Calcutta. Shortlisted candidates will interface with experts. Finally, the reports will be sent to Lifeline Foundation, which will select final volunteers for a three-day training.
The interaction at Centre for Excellence — more of a brainstorming, actually — gave birth to a number of ideas such as a helpline number that’s easy to remember, call transfer facility to cellphones, contests in schools, among others.
Tata Steel has already started helping Jeevan in tangible ways — by installing awareness billboards before schools and sending intranet messages to its employees.
Will the anti-suicide campaign become more professional?