We all realize that life is precious and yet every day, some or other person loses hope in life and gives in to suicide. Don’t we all wish to help them during their crisis of depression? NGOs like AASRA do it. Featured today on The Better India platform, Johnson Thomas, the Director of AASRA talks on how his NGO works to prevent suicides.
Life is a war. Doctors fight disease. Lawyers fight injustice. Teachers fight ignorance. AASRA fights to prevent suicide – that’s the theme behind AASRA NGO.
Johnson Thomas, the director told us that Aasra is a crisis intervention centre for the distressed, depressed and suicidal. It’s basically an emotional support service providing emotional first-aid to those who are contemplating suicide or are on the verge or in the process of committing the act.
We started way back in 1998, fifteen years ago on 13th September. A year before that we found that there were a high number of suicides in Navi Mumbai among the student community. This was a very worrying development and a group of people came together to set up this service as succor for those experiencing extreme emotional pain because of their problems they are facing. The service was for everybody and not just for students. We started out as a 6-hour helpline from 3pm to 9pm daily and then expanded to two lines for 24×7 services. Our team consists of volunteers from all walks of life specially selected for their innate qualities and professionally trained to provide emotional support to the depressed and suicidal.
As Johnson elaborated further, Aasra gets callers from all walks of life , from all across India and the world.
Mostly students, newly employed young adults, unemployed youth, youngsters experiencing break-ups or loss, recently retired, ageing and alone and terminally ill patients seek help from them. Johnson also elaborated a little on why depression and suicidal tendencies are increasing these days.
The world is changing and changing fast. Especially in India where the entry of multi-nationals and globalisation has set new patterns of behaviour among the middle class! They are left with little time to pursue their interests or give time to family while their desire for wealth and riches and status has grown exponentially. So this increases the stress on the family which is ill-equipped to deal with the changing scenario. The supportive factor i.e the joint family system which kept our families psychologically supported, has crumbled in most parts of India. As a result when crisis strikes, there is no one to turn to. Very often, the spouse or near or dear one is the cause of the problem or involved in the problem hence can do little to alleviate the pain. This has increased the psychological fragility of the new generation leading to an increased incidence of depression and is therefore leading them to suicide as an option.
Along with a Helpline facility, Aasra does many other activities as well. It organizes awareness talks, conduct workshops on suicide awareness, coping skills, stress management etc, visits hospitals, terminally ill care-centres, arranges public events, associates with college fests and events, distributes book marks, writes for blogs, websites and social media connections, provides email service, responds to letters, conducts street plays and so one. We even have events to commemorate world suicide prevention day/week/month, mental health week/day as well as Suicide Survivors Day.
Now that is quite an extensive list and we are truly impressed with Aasra’s bouquet of services. Its ten years of consistent high quality service and commitment have made it stand out as a big and reliable lifeline for many people all across India. It is because of their outstanding efforts in the field of suicide prevention that in January 2006, AASRA was awarded the Maharashtra Ratna Gaurav Puraskar, (awarded to NGO’s, activists, personalities of repute) by the Shiv Sangram Pratisthan, devoted to pursuing, upholding and commending the ideals of Shivaji Maharaj.
NGOs like Aasra are doing a very noble job. Life is the biggest gift and we all must live it fully. Aasra’s team consists of volunteers who deserve a round of applause. These volunteers are professionally trained and supported by internal systems. They come from all walks of life and classes. All the volunteers of Aasra, most of them being students, teachers, housewives, retired folk, young employed etc; are doing a wonderful job.
Johnson told us that their focus in the future is to expand their services by increasing their intake of calls with the help of new technology, provide a toll free number and also provide day care facilities and have a half-way home for people who are mentally ill and need professional support.
We thank Johnson for sparing his valuable time to share Aasra’s vision with us. For any assistance please call their 24×7 Helpline number: 022-27546669. And all those readers who wish to join Aasra and spread the beauty of life around can do so by visiting their website here.