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Now, Mumbai youths seek help for depression on email

Since March 2018, volunteers at Samaritans Mumbai have replied to 200 emails from people dealing with emotional crisis and suicidal tendencies

cities Updated: Sep 10, 2018 05:16 IST
Aayushi Pratap
Aayushi Pratap
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
A sad and depressed young man is sitting on the floor in an empty room.(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

A rising number of emotionally distressed youngsters across the country are reaching out for help through emails, according to volunteers from one of the oldest volunteer-run suicide prevention helplines in the country. The traditional modes of seeking help have always been phone calls and walk-ins at counselling centres.

Since March 2018, volunteers at Samaritans Mumbai have replied to 200 emails from people dealing with emotional crisis and suicidal tendencies, out of which nearly 60% were below 25 years, their data shows. Samaritans Mumbai said this is a new phenomenon.

Sunitha Ramachandran from Samaritans Mumbai, who has taken formal training in ‘email befriending’, said emails are a fairly new mode of lending an ear.

“The idea is not to substitute phone calls, rather to enhance the experience for anyone who reaches out to us. We have a lot of emails from people who stammer and stutter and they would find it easier to write email over making calls,” she said.

Manohar Rangnekar, assistant director, Samaritans Mumbai, said it is only in the last two years that he realised internet usage has dramatically increased among the youth.

“And suicide among them is increasing by leaps and bounds, so we thought it was necessary to reach out to this group at their level,” he said.

According to the World Health Organisation, suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15-29 year olds globally.

Joey Chatterjee from the Lifeline Foundation, a Kolkata-based suicide prevention centre where volunteers have been providing counselling through emails since 2007, said it is easy to maintain anonymity on emails compared to phone calls. “With emails one doesn’t need to mention their gender. Also, volunteers have the luxury of redrafting emails, which isn’t the case with phone calls,”.

The foundation receives the highest number of emails before exams and festivals.

While emails keep flooding the inboxes of these volunteer-run organisations, there is a stringent quality check performed before any reply is sent out. At Samaritans Mumbai, the volunteers read the emails a few times to identify the exact feelings of the writer. Once drafted, a senior volunteer reviews it and the administrator finally sends it out.

Kamakshi Chandar, volunteer at the Chennai-based suicide preventive helpline Sneha, which has provided emotional support through emails for the past 14 years, said more youngsters in the age group of 12 to 15 are reaching out to them on email nowadays. However, the drawback of email-based counselling is that words could often be misinterpreted, she said.

Although experts feel the most ideal way to help people emotionally is by meeting them face to face, they said emails are a good option for people who don’t have the courage to walk into centres for help.

Dr N Girish, from National from Mental Health and Neurosciences, said the objective is to reach out to people through a mode they are most comfortable communicating in.

“It is just as simple as asking someone which language they are comfortable conversing in. Internet usage is picking up among the youth and one has to integrate it along with the traditional modes of providing help”.

First Published: Sep 10, 2018 05:16 IST