Kashmir gets first suicide prevention hotline ‘Zindagi’ – The New Indian Express

Express press service

SRINAGAR: The first suicide prevention hotline named ‘Zindagi’ to prevent suicides has started operating in Kashmir, where mental health problems have increased due to three decades of conflict and two years of pandemic of Covid-19.

The helpline number (18002701008) is the initiative of Institute of Mental Health and Neuroscience – Kashmir, GMC Srinagar and NGO SRO Kashmir. The hotline began operations from May 19 and operates daily from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. According to psychologists, these hours are the most vulnerable period for thoughts of self-harm in people facing extreme mental stress, because they feel lonely during this time.

The Zindagi (to save lives) helpline offers advice on suicide prevention, first aid, psychological support, distress management, mental well-being, encouraging positive behavior and psychological crisis management.

Dr Zoya Mir, a clinical psychologist at IMHANS, told this newspaper that suicides are 100% preventable and “we have to rely on a person’s instinct for survival”.

She said that they have been planning for months to launch this suicide prevention hotline and that all clinical psychologists and psychiatrists involved in the hotline have been trained in suicide prevention courses given by Mumbai experts.

Currently, the Helpline relies on a team of 14 psychiatrists and clinical psychologists. There is no language barrier, the helpline receives calls in English, Urdu and Kashmiri.

“Clinical psychologists and psychiatrists have been trained to respond in stage one and to manage people who have suicidal tendencies,” Zoya said. She said they were getting around 10 to 15 calls a day.

“We named the helpline ‘Zindagi’ because our goal is to save people’s lives. We provide immediate intervention to patients and also guide them to go to the nearest psychiatric center or psychologist to their nearest place of treatment,” she said.

In the next few days, Zoya said, they plan to create a 24/7 helpline. They also create a provision to evacuate the person with serious suicidal thoughts to the hospital.

Chairman of NGO SRO Kashmir Mohammad Aafaq Sayeed said they provide technical assistance to the helpline in addition to trained volunteers. He said the helpline will ensure complete secrecy regarding the identity of the patient.

“The psychologists, who are part of this helpline, do not have access to caller ID. Our data is completely secure. Only the relevant HOD and the administrator have access to the call recording,” he said. Aafaq said that for using the helplines, the person with suicidal thoughts would have to call the helpline themselves. “If someone else on his behalf calls the Helpline, that will not be considered.”

“We can’t go there but we help them on this point only by providing them with the necessary interventions to overcome their suicidal thoughts,” he said.