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Providing solace to the distressed

Mental well-being is integral to a healthy lifestyle. Suicide tendencies may occur when people fail to cope with mental stress.

Tackling suicide tendencies is not easy. Though a few non-governmental organisations such as Maitri in Kochi are helping people in distress, there are a hundred others who need support to tide over the crises in their lives.

Maitri undertakes research projects on the phenomenon of suicide in Kerala. The State is known to have a high rate of suicide and the rate has been rising over the past few years. But trends in the recent months have indicated a reduction in suicide attempts, says C.J. John, psychiatrist and founder director of Maitri. This may be owing to an increased awareness on the aftermath of the suicide of Rajani, engineering college student, as well as the relief measures adopted by the authorities in the wake of suicide by farmers in Wayanad, he says.

The rate of suicide among the elderly and the middle-aged has also increased. Men aged between 45 and 59 have been found to have suicide tendency, according to a recent study. Twenty one per cent of the suicide cases in this age group occur in Kerala. Domestic problems and prolonged illness are said to be the key reasons.

Free service

Maitri, which provides free service, has over 40 volunteers, says M.V. Kunjachan, director of the organisation. Established a decade ago, Maitri functions from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.

The organisation provides 24-hour service during the publication of the SSLC examination results. The WHO observes September 10 as the International Suicide Prevention Day and Maitri arranges special programmes to mark the day. The organisation was associated with the district administration and it provided emotional care to the tsunami-affected.

Maitri received 1,816 calls in 2004 in comparison to 1,809 calls that it received in 2003. About 25 per cent of the calls are repeat calls and 20 per cent of the callers are, often, at `high risk' of committing suicide. The organisation prefers to keep the identity of the callers confidential, says Jose Alex, chairman of the organisation. Those in distressed may contact the organisation on telephone at: 2396272.

R. Ramabhadran Pillai

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