Wednesday, March 29, 2023

To improve access to mental health in the districts of Karnataka, the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS), in collaboration with various departments of the Government of Karnataka and the Himalaya Wellness Company, is aiming to develop an indigenized pilot model framework for suicide prevention research and surveillance. TitledSURveillance system to trAcK suicide and Self-HArm: SURAKSHA – A Community Based Suicide Prevention Model, this pilot program will assess the feasibility and acceptability of community-based suicide prevention programs and their cost-effectiveness across varied nodal stakeholder groups involving farmers, laborers, daily wage workers, student communities, media professionals, and women groups. It will also establish a cohort for future longitudinal studies, that is to repeatedly examine the same individuals to detect any changes that might occur over a period. Following the pilot research and feasibility study, the project will be scaled up to a state level in future.

Suicide is a multifactorial cause of mortality across all stages of a person’s life, with almost one million suicide deaths each year worldwide. According to a National Crime Report Bureau (NCRB) report 2021, Karnataka reported 13,056 suicides in the said period, a 6.5% increase from the year 2020, which accounts for 8% of the total suicides in India, and the rate of suicide in Karnataka is at 19.5%, which is higher than the national average of 12%. As a preliminary phase, we aim at developing an indigenized research model of suicide prevention in the Channapatna taluk of Ramanagara district in Karnataka State, with a comprehensive surveillance system in the community that would include early identification, crisis intervention, and referral system. The program is in line with the “LIVE LIFE” program of WHO for suicide prevention.

Dr. Pratima Murthy, Director, NIMHANS, shares,“Suicide prevention efforts require coordination and collaboration among multiple sectors of society. These efforts must be inclusive and integrated as no single approach alone can make an impact on an issue as complex as suicide. With an increased focus on mental wellness initiatives in Karnataka, we are confident that project SURAKSHA will provide the much-needed momentum in the first phase and reach out to various stakeholder groups.”

Smt. Uma Mahadevan, IAS, Additional Chief Secretary of Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Department, Government of Karnataka, shares, “Suicide imposes a great burden on the development of our country. As we know, the treatment gap for mental health issues is considerable. In view of the shortage of mental health professionals to cater to the need of the growing population, projects like SURAKSHA can bring out comprehensive sustainable models and the opportunity for community involvement can be well utilized. We, at RDPR, are happy to be a part of this initiative along with other departments of the Government and NIMHANS. We appreciate the support of Himalaya Wellness Company for the project.”

Speaking on the project, K G Umesh, Director of Human ResourcesHimalaya Wellness Company, said, “At the core of Himalaya’s vision is the ‘Care for Life’ philosophy. The formal launch of Suraksha is a testimony of our commitment to invest in the communities in which we operate. Through this partnership, we endeavor to build a holistic community-based suicide surveillance program to ensure the long-term viability and efficacy of suicide prevention through various evidence-based interventions, thereby aiming at early identification, education, and management of the risk of suicide rate at the state and progressively at the national level. With this collaboration and holistic approach to mental well-being, we are positive that SURAKSHA will bring about a difference by enriching communities and bringing about happiness through wellness.”

Dr. Anish V Cherian, Associate Professor of Department of Psychiatric Social Work, NIMHANS and the principal investigator of project SURAKSHA, shares, “The Government of India has put forward the National Suicide Prevention Strategy to address the issue of suicide, and project SURAKSHA is an indigenized comprehensive community-based model that is in line with the National Suicide Prevention Strategy and the WHO guidelines of LIVE LIFE.”

Project Suraksha will be implemented in three phases: analyzing the existing comprehensive suicide prevention programs and current public health situation in the districts, workshops to develop culture/region-specific interventions, and implementation of the interventions.