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Kashmir gets first suicide prevention helpline 'Zindagi'


SRINAGAR: The first Suicide Prevention Helpline named 'Zindagi' to prevent suicides has started functioning in Kashmir, where mental health issues have increased due to the three decades-long conflict and two years of Covid-19 pandemic.

The Helpline No (18002701008) is the initiative of Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences - Kashmir, GMC Srinagar and NGO SRO Kashmir. The helpline started its operations from May 19 and works daily from 6 pm to 11 pm. These hours, according to psychologists, is the most vulnerable period for self-harm thoughts among those facing extreme mental stress as they feel lonely during the time.

The helpline named Zindagi (to save lives) offers suicide prevention counseling, first aid, psychological support, distress management, mental well-being, promotes positive behaviour, and psychological crisis management.

Dr Zoya Mir, Clinical Psychologist at IMHANS told this newspaper that suicides are 100 per cent preventable and “we have to tab on the survival instinct of a person”.

She said they were planning for months to launch this suicide prevention helpline and all the clinical psychologists and psychiatrists involved in the Helpline have been trained in courses of suicide prevention from experts in Mumbai.

At present, the Helpline is backed by a team of 14 psychiatrists and clinical psychologists. There is no language barrier, the helpline entertains calls in English, Urdu and Kashmiri.

“The clinical psychologists and psychiatrists have been trained how to respond on the first stage and how to handle people who have suicidal tendencies,” Zoya said. She said they are receiving almost 10-15 calls per day.

“We have named the helpline 'Zindagi' because our focus is to save people's lives. We are providing immediate intervention to the patients and also guide them that as a follow-up they should visit the nearest psychiatric centre or Psychologist at their nearest place for the treatment,” she said.

In the coming days, Zoya said, they are planning to make the Helpline 24x7. They are also creating a provision to evacuate the person having severe suicidal thoughts to hospital.

Chairman of NGO SRO Kashmir Mohammad Aafaq Sayeed said they are providing technical help to the helpline besides the trained volunteers. He said the Helpline will ensure total secrecy regarding patient’s identity.

“The psychologists, who are part of this Helpline, don’t have access to caller-ID. Our data is totally secure. Only the HOD concerned and admin has access to the call record,” he said. Aafaq said for availing the Helpline services, the person having suicidal thoughts should himself call the Helpline. “If anybody else on his behalf calls the Helpline, it will not be taken into consideration”.

“We cannot go there but we help them on that point only by providing them interventions needed to overcome their suicidal thoughts,” he said.