The community must recognise mental health as an important health issue, Shekhar Saxena, director, Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, WHO, said. Delivering the Sneha Silver Jubilee Oration on ‘Suicide Prevention – Towards Evidence-based Community Action,' Dr. Saxena, the first Indian to head the mental health division at the WHO, said communities also need to work with the government to establish prevention policies at the local, provincial and national level.
Specifying a role for non-specialised health care providers (including nurses and general practitioners) in suicide prevention, Dr. Saxena said they too need to be aware that suicide is an issue.
Reduction of access to means of suicide is proven to be a good deterrent for those contemplating suicide. This is a key element of the WHO's resource series on preventing suicide, as part of the Mental Health Gap Action Programme.
In India, suicides are heavily pesticide-related, Dr. Saxena explained. He lauded the work being done by Sneha in Kaatumannar Koil, where, safety lockers have been provided for farmers to store pesticide. Earlier, Lakshmi Vijayakumar, founder, Sneha (the helpline no: 24640050) said the experiment in Kaatumannar Koil was showing good results in the six months since it was implemented. The programme will be followed up and many more such community interventions would be implemented in the future, she said. Dinesh Bhugra, president, Royal College of Psychiatrists, UK, said it is essential to make sure that those with mental illness are treated. Cautioning the media about reporting suicides sensitively, he said the media must not indulge in scare mongering. He also released a media guideline booklet for reporting on child suicides on the occasion. Helen Herrman, secretary, Publications, World Psychiatric Association, R. Satianathan, director, Institute of Mental Health, R. Thara, director, SCARF, and M. Thirunavukkarasu, president elect, Indian Psychiatric Society, offered felicitations.