The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has started a helpline number ‘Hitguj’ (24131212) in 2013, which is maintained by the psychiatric department of KEM hospital and functions 24×7. However, the other numbers do not function during the night, which according to psychiatrists is the most vulnerable time for patients suffering from mental health issues. BMC’s helpline number, too, receives a third of its calls during the night. Between 2008 and 2016, Mumbai recorded 10,657 suicide cases, where most were in the age group of 25-40 years, according to a Right to Information (RTI) filed by activist Shakeel Ahmed Shaikh.
D Shreelakshmi a counsellor of suicide helpline NGO Aadhar told Afternoon Voice, “Due to financial crisis and lack of volunteers running helpline round the clock becomes challenging. Running the helpline at night is very essential, but it needs more helpers. We run with the help of volunteers who manage time to talk to the callers in these six hours. So, if more people come forward, we would certainly extend the timing”.
Psychiatrists have now addressed the need for more 24×7 helpline numbers which will help save more lives. Despite having almost half-a-dozen helpline numbers, Mumbai has only one 24-hour mental healthcare helpline number for a population of over 12 million.
Dr Swapna Patekar Pyschologist and Counsellor said, “With growing financial crisis ,unpredictable job scenes and increasing competition to survive, mental issues are on a high. Considering this we need a helpline to deal with this epidemic of the mind at the earliest. Mumbai will become a capital of depression and suicides very soon if proper measures are not taken.”
Since the inception of Hitguj, the number of calls has risen by 20% in the past five years. This year, until October 4, the helpline received 4,892 calls, as opposed to 3,835 calls in 2015. This helpline is managed by trained psychologists in three shifts and records over 30% calls in the night that continues till dawn. Almost 25% callers have suicidal tendencies. These calls are most common late in the night. If you go by the official records, over men who remain busy at work till evening commit 65 per cent of suicides. So, if they need mental support, they would call at night. In a country where there are no rules and regulations to curb suicide cases, this is the least we can do.
Psychiatrist and Wellness Counselor, Vivek Mantri said, “The mental health help centres should be open for 24×7 and at night, it must be kept open on priority. State government should really understand that the mental health issues are on rise, wherein most of the people develop suicidal tendencies in the dark or evening hours, because the silence around bothers them the most.”