Relationship problems, followed by academic concerns, are the leading reasons why Mumbaiites reach out for psychological guidance, said counsellors working at suicide prevention helplines and counselling centres ahead of World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10.
Manohar Rangnekar, director of Mumbai Samaritans, one of the city’s oldest volunteer-run suicide prevention helplines, said that 40 per cent of all phone calls received are related to heartbreak, failing marriages or failing to live up to parental expectations.
“Most callers have relationship issues with their spouses, partners or parents. For instance, a young caller spoke to our volunteer for hours because a close male friend had suddenly stopped talking to her. Sometimes, the issue may seem trivial, but may affect the person a lot,” said Rangnekar.
He added that five years ago, the average age group of the callers was 45 to 80 years. This has now shifted to 18-45 years.
“A lot of callers in the age group of 18 to 20 have a fragile self-image. They are not prepared to accept failure. They say that they are under high pressure to perform,” said Mrunalini Oka, a volunteer with Mumbai Samaritans for the last four years.
Oka said that of the 2,750 calls they received last year, around 15% of the callers said they either contemplated or attempted suicide. “Not everyone who calls is suicidal. But if they don’t receive adequate attention, they may eventually start displaying suicidal tendencies,” said Oka.
Hitguj, a mental health service helpline started by the civic-run KEM Hospital, Parel, in 2013, receives 300 to 500 phone calls a week. Dr Shubhangi Parker, head of the psychiatry department, which runs the service, said that increased awareness about such helplines has lead to more people reaching out for help.
“There are many people dealing with anxiety or depression because of marital problems, domestic violence, alcohol addiction or financial troubles. Most callers belong to the age group of 20-40 years,” said Parker.
Dr Julpa Bhuta, consultant woman and child psychiatrist at LTMG Sion Hospital said the most common cause of suicide in the age group of 18 to 30 is failed relationships. “Failed relationships affect women more than men,” said Bhuta.
iCALL, a telephonic counselling service run by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, in its annual report said relationship concerns were one of the main topics of the phone calls and emails they received in 2015.
“A large number of callers expressed distress about issues related to interpersonal relationships such as parent-child issues or marital discord.The number of female callers has doubled in the last two years,” said Paras Sharma, coordinator of the service.
Since the service started in September 2012, iCALL has seen a sharp increase in the number of phone calls. “When we started the service, we used to get around 200 phone calls a month. This has now increased to around 1,500 phone calls in a month. The number of callers who admit to having suicidal tendencies is roughly 20%, ” said Sharma.
“The fact that more people are calling means that people have improved access to such services, be it via phone calls or emails. It does not mean that people’s problems have increased,” he added.