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NIMHANS forms forum to support suiciders’ kin

– Mohammed Atherulla Shariff

What is to be done when all preventive measures fail and people succumb to suicidal tendencies, leaving behind the family members to suffer even more? This tragic issue is well understood by India’s premier institution dealing in mental health. The National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) in Bangalore has established a forum to help families of the individuals who have died by suicides. And the day of this announcement is equally important; 10th September, World Suicide Prevention Day.

The Suicide Loss Survivors Forum has been established to assist the bereaved families, since the current mental health system inadequately addresses their specific needs. According to a former professor at Nimhans, Dr. P Sheshadri, the feelings that arise when losing one’s loved one to suicide such as confusion, stigma, guilt and shame – often remain unheard and unaddressed.

Dr. Anish V Cherian, an associate professor at NIMHANS and organizer of the forum, says ‘the voices of survivors are essential for raising awareness, reducing stigma, providing support and ultimately preventing suicides.’

The forum will provide information about resources such as therapy, helplines and support groups that can be accessed. The forum will also serve as a network, allowing people to connect with others who have experienced similar losses.

A suicide loss survivor, Dr. Nandini Murali has authored a book ‘Left Behind: Surviving Suicide Loss’ has remarked: ‘It is high time we had a formal platform to address the needs of suicide loss survivors.’

Dr. Prabha Chandra, Dean of Behavioral Sciences at Nimhans is of the opinion that awareness and preventive measures related to suicide should be made mandatory across institutions, workplaces and communities.

Multiple attempts:
Another study points out that around 10% of people who die of suicide are those who have attempted it multiple times before. However, a pilot project in Bangalore has brought down repeat attempts among suicide survivors to just 0.8%. The Urban Self-Harm study (USHAS) was launched in October 22 by the National Health Mission – Karnataka in collaboration with Nimhans. It operates in five government hospitals in the city.

As per the study, there are an estimated 25 attempts for every completed suicide. The project provides information on how to stop suicidal thoughts and resources to use for this especially to those who are admitted into hospitals after their failed attempts.

According to World Health Organisation (WHO), nearly eight lakh people die by suicide every year leaving many others profoundly impacted by the loss.  The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) has recorded around 164000 victims of suicide in India last year. The figure is far higher than the victims of all the communal riots and carnages. High time to take stock of the situation seriously.

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