Suicide prevention helpline Sneha organises flash mobs in Chennai malls to spread the message

You can prevent a suicide if you are equipped with necessary information — the message was brought out at Forum and Express Avenue malls on Saturday where Sneha, a non-governmental organisation working to prevent suicides, organised a flash mob.

In July, two IT professionals fell to their death at two malls in the city. The second incident was suspected to have arisen from ‘copycat syndrome’.

According to psychiatrist Lakshmi Vijayakumar, who founded Sneha, when a suicide invites attention, several more persons will attempt it.

The Kotturpuram bridge over Adyar river has become notorious for such incidents, after a singer’s husband jumped from the bridge last year. In the past decade, 20 persons reportedly jumped from the bridge. But the number for the last six months alone stands at six. In contrast, at Thiru Vi Ka bridge, eight such incidents have been reported in the past decade.

Dr. Lakshmi said a similar situation prevailed in San Francisco, where 550 persons had jumped from the Golden Gate Bridge. The government placed nets below the bridge to prevent deaths. After a 20-year follow up of the survivors the researchers found that only nine per cent tried to attempt the act elsewhere. In Auckland, New Zealand, when the barriers on Grafton Bridge were removed, the number of suicides went up by five times.

“We have found often people are generally fixed on the method they use. We can prevent the attempt by creating barriers. We can raise the walls of bridges and not provide footholds. Aesthetic designs such as the use of thick translucent material for walls can be considered,” said Dr. Lakshmi who recently offered several suggestions to Chennai Corporation on the creation of barriers.

As it has been noticed that people often call their friends or family before attempting suicide, displaying helplines in hotspots would give them an opportunity to express their emotions, she added.

Meanwhile, awareness programmes will be held at Besant Nagar beach, Egmore Railway Station and Moore Market railway complex during the next few days. On Tuesday, survivors-turned-counsellors will share their experiences at Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital.

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