In spite of holding the record of the first Indian state with complete literacy, Kerala stands highest in the number of suicides. More than 9800 suicides are reported annually, which is around 32 persons every day or more than one person per hour. The rate of suicides is consistently high, which is about three times the national average. Though most of these suicides are `family suicides’, suicide among adolescent children, especially girls, is on the rise chiefly due to educational stress.
To stem the tide, the Social Welfare Department has appointed full-time counselors in 163 schools. This initiative has been found to be very useful as many students are making use of this opportunity, especially during the examination periods to relieve stress and anxiety.
A strategy for suicide prevention among adolescents and children has been drawn out through a national workshop (SPACE 09) with funding from UNICEF on 17th & 18th Sept. 2009 at Mascot Hotel, Trivandrum.. The idea of the workshop was to develop a strategy for prevention of suicides by dissemination of the fact that there is space for all in the world and suicide is not the answer.
The workshop came out with many practical suggestions and recommendations for reaching out to a larger section of the community. It was stressed by all participants that awareness programmes are required at school as well as family level to curb the growing menace of suicides among children and adolescents. It was unanimously accepted that the strategy should be four pronged
- Ensuring Positive Mental Health
- Identifying At-risk children and early interventions
- Addressing children in need of assistance or in distress
- Help attempters to come out
The major recommendations were
- Introducing Life Skill Education as part of curriculum at school levels both at students and pedagogical level.
- Promoting mental health –parenting skills to all – training teachers – master trainers-special training – scientific training.
- Organise awareness programmes at school/ college / family levels .
- Establish child counselling and family counselling centres.
- Decriminalization of the act of suicide.
- Destigmatisation: training/sensitisation to police personnel to maintain confidentiality.
- Streamlining the referral protocol for physicians, mental health professionals.
- Convergence of departments/agencies – multisectoral.
- Chalk out a protocol for media to ensure responsible reporting.