Mental health drive brings down suicides in Tihar to one in a year
Tihar Jail, the country’s largest and the most populated prison complex, has witnessed just one case of suicide between May 2018 and April 2019. Jail officials have attributed the reduction in suicide rates to the programme on mental health that was launched in April last year. In 2016 and 17, the jail had reported seven and eight suicides, respectively.
Tihar Jail had started the intensive counselling services with the help of a team of doctors from AIIMS and 60 others from the Mental Health Foundation (MHF), an NGO.
Prison officials said the focus on mental health — identifying depressed prisoners and then counselling them — has also resulted in less number of clashes among jail inmates. The officials will present a report to the Delhi High Court and the state government on April 16, highlighting the positive impact of the one-year programme.
The prisons officials said that since they started the project, the number of violence cases has reduced by 15-20%. The officers said Tihar is the second prison after the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections in the US to follow this approach. In 2012-13, there were at least 15 suicides across Tihar. The officials said there has been only one suicide after the programme was started.
“Even one case is too many for us,” the prison’s director general, Ajay Kashyap, said. “Our teams counsel every prisoner after identifying their psychological needs and ensure that they are not neglected. Our focus is on the mental health of prisoners. Our teams are working round the clock to ensure that no inmate takes their own life,” he added.
Explaining the process, Kashyap said that the counselling team used a questionnaire to identify depressed prisoners. The questionnaire is based on guidelines of the World Health Organization.
“Tihar is the second prison in the world to focus on mental health. The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections had adopted this and it gave good results,” Kashyap said.