“Now we cover students in around 80 schools and colleges, but we want to reach out to more students.”

Sneha, a voluntary organisation working in the field of suicide prevention, has proposed to expand its services and reach out to more schools and colleges in the city and the suburbs.

The organisation, launched in 1986 by psychiatrist Lakshmi Vijayakumar, completed its 25th year on April 13. For the volunteers it is not about numbers but about persons who have been persuaded to face their problems, cope with them and find solutions, instead of taking the extreme step.

For Sneha's volunteers it is a long road ahead. Each day Sneha receives around 20 to 30 phone calls, says its director Anju. “During the time when examination results are declared, we get more calls.”

With the aim of addressing the needs of the youngsters, Sneha began conducting programmes in schools and now plans to extend the services. Sneha's longtime volunteer P.V. Sankaranarayanan says “Now we cover students in around 80 schools and colleges, but we want to reach out to more students.”

Every year in the city, more than a thousand persons commit suicide. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, between 2007 and 2009, a total of 5,034 persons have committed suicide in Chennai. A total of 2,313 persons committed suicide in 2007. In 2008 it was 1,309 and the next year 1,412. The figures for 2010 would be available only next year.

According to NCRB data, more people in the age group of 15 to 44 commit suicide. More people take the step due to family problems or illnesses. More youngsters appear to take the extreme step for ideological causes, such as loss/rejection by the person they hero worship.

The volunteers spend four hours every week counselling those who seek their help. Given the nature of their job, the volunteers are also provided training to handle the exhausting work and taught to de-stress.

“They do not take home the stress as we have a training programme. Anyone who is over 20 years of age and is proficient in English and Tamil can offer to volunteer for Sneha,” Mr. Sankaranarayanan says.

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