When the need for volunteers is much more than before

The suicide helpline gets calls from diverse group of people, many of whom are facing financial problems

May 12, 2022 07:05 pm | Updated 07:05 pm IST - CHENNAI

Sneha, a Chennai-based suicide prevention centre, has been hit by attrition of volunteers after the pandemic.

Sneha, a Chennai-based suicide prevention centre, has been hit by attrition of volunteers after the pandemic. | Photo Credit: R. RAVINDRAN

“We had 60 volunteers before the pandemic. Right now, we have 30 to 35 volunteers and need at least 20 more”Lakshmi Vijayakumar Psychiatrist and founder of Sneha

Post-pandemic, not only has the number of callers seeking counselling increased but also the segments of people in need of help for distress or suicidal tendencies has become diverse owing to circumstances that have stemmed from lockdown and restrictions. This rising trend has put voluntary organisations such as Sneha, a Chennai-based suicide prevention centre, look out for more volunteers to provide assistance to callers.

“Mental health has taken a beating in the post-COVID period. The number of calls has more than doubled ever since the pandemic began. There are constant calls throughout the day. At least 15 to 20% of our calls are from outside Tamil Nadu as some centres in other parts of the country have closed down,” Lakshmi Vijayakumar, psychiatrist and founder of Sneha, said.

Sneha and its volunteers had to face uncertainties due to COVID-19 restrictions. “Volunteers had to handle calls along with their own uncertainties and family situations. We faced a little attrition due to COVID-19 restrictions at a time when the services were needed the most. We had 60 volunteers before the pandemic. Right now, we have 30 to 35 volunteers and need at least 20 more,” she said.

While calls have increased, the segments of people in distress and requiring assistance have become more diverse. “We get calls from one group of persons facing financial issues such as those running small businesses or shops and have lost money due to the COVID-19. Another group facing financial distress are employed persons who have salary cuts. There are students, who are worried about the future, and parents, who are worried about their children being addicted to gaming or the Internet,” she said.

In the initial phase, Sneha received calls from women facing domestic violence during the lockdown, she said. “Now, it is mostly people who have faced financial implications and students. Those who lost someone to COVID-19, especially middle-aged women who lost their husbands, also call for assistance,” she said.

Noting that the need for volunteers is much more than before, she said that those willing to volunteer should provide a commitment for at least two years, should be aged above 20, fluent in English and Tamil and allot four hours every week.

Those interested can access the forms on Sneha’s website snehaindia.org or call - 044-2464 0050.

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