Each time the news of a suicide emerges, we ask the same questions. What drives a person to end their lives? Why don’t they seek help? Don’t they think of families and friends? And more. But the most substantial question is this—what can we do to help. The answer often lies in lending your ear to the distressed and aiding them in their struggles without judgement.
The reasons may vary, but people are often driven to catastrophic decisions due to loneliness and the inability to find help.
Image source: Shashank Mhasawade
Even as suicides and mental health issues rise in numbers, volunteer-helmed helplines around India offer a helping hand. Here are some organisations that listen to those suffering from depression and suicidal thoughts and help them find the silver lining in their lives.
1. Sumaitri, Delhi
A crisis intervention centre for the depressed and suicidal, this voluntary organisation in the Indian Capital has been running since 1998. They have served over 1 lakh callers, and the organisation has also assisted and counselled callers from other cities besides Delhi. Write to Sumaitrai at email@example.com or call the helpline numbers 011-23389090. The helpline is functional from Monday to Friday between 2pm and 10pm and from 10am to 10pm on weekends.
2. Lifeline Foundation, Kolkata
Founded in 1996, Lifeline Foundation has counselled thousands of people over two decades and remains one of West Bengal’s most well-known helplines for the depressed and desperate. The volunteer-driven initiative aims to contain the suicides rates in Kolkata and moffusil towns and cities, and also supports survivors, families and friends. Call the helpline on +913324637401/7432 or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
3. Kashmir Lifeline, Srinagar
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Based in Srinagar, this organisation offers counselling helpline, face-to-face psychotherapy and counselling, outreach services, and education and training services. While their clinic is located in Central Srinagar, the outreach centres are spread across the state, including Shopian, Baramulla and Anantnag. Call the helpline at 18001807020, between 10am and 5pm on all days except Friday and Saturday, or check their Facebook page.
4. Roshni, Hyderabad
Offering a platform for distress and suicide calls, Roshni has been operational in Hyderabad since 1997. From exam-related stress to loneliness, the NGO volunteers listen to callers afflicted with a variety of mental health issues, enabling them to overcome depression and suicidal instincts. The Roshni helpline is operational everyday from 11am to 9pm. Call +914066202000/2001 for help, or email email@example.com.
5. Maithri, Kochi
Founded with the objective of “befriending the friendless”, Maithri is striving to prevent suicides in Kerala. Based on the idea that conversations—termed ‘ventilating’—can be cathartic for the distressed, Maithri volunteers extend befriending services in person, over phone, and through emails and letters. To visit the office or write a letter, find the address on their website. You can also call 0484 2540530 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The office is open from 10am to 7pm every day.
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6. Sneha, Chennai
Based in Chennai’s RA Puram, Sneha is a volunteer-run organisation that hopes to lend a helping ear to those suffering from loneliness and depression. The services are free, and Sneha runs on donations and funds generated by their inhouse range of greeting cards. The helpline is +914424640050/60, available 24 hours on all days of the week. You can also email the volunteers at email@example.com.
7. iCall, Mumbai
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A psycho-social helpline located at Tata Institute of Social Sciences, trained counsellors offer support via phone, email and social media. The organisation has used their phone and email data to develop reports and publications (keeping concerns about anonymity in mind) and also maintains directories of mental health services, deaddiction services, police, NGOs and lawyers. The helpline number is +9122 25521111, available between 8am and 10pm from Monday to Saturday. You can email them at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact via Facebook and Twitter.
8. Jeevan, Jamshedpur
Rising suicides in the Steel City led to the formation of Jeevan Suicide Prevention Helpline in 2006. The volunteers drive the initiative forward, listening to callers from 10am to 6pm on all days. The helpline is aided by local hospitals, town administration and corporate organisations. Those seeking help can visit the office at Bistupur, call 0657-6453841/6555555 or email email@example.com.
9. Samaritans Mumbai
Another Mumbai-based organisation that aims to support individuals in emotional distress, Samaritans takes the support of both volunteers and trained counsellors. Founded in 1968, it is also the first branch of The Samaritans, UK, to be established outside England. The organisation was formerly known as Samaritans Bombay and Samaritans Sahara. The Samaritans work out of their office in Dadar; you can also call +91226464 3267/65653267/6565 3247 on all days from 3pm-9pm or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
10. Sahai, Bengaluru
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Offering help to depressed and suicidal callers since 2002, this organisation wants everyone to know that help is just a phone call away. In addition to aiding callers over phone, emails and social media, Sahai also conducts mental health sessions and workshops. Call the helpline on +9180 25497777, from Monday to Saturday between 10am and 8pm, or head to their official website for more information.
11. You Matter by COOJ, Goa
An initiative by Goa’s COOJ Mental Health Foundation to contain the rising number of suicides in the state, this organisation is spearheaded by psychiatry experts and helmed by local volunteers to address the calls and concerns of distressed callers. The COOJ Listening helpline is operational between 3pm and 7pm on weekdays (Monday to Friday). Call 08322252525 for help or leave a message for the team on Facebook.
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12. Saath, Ahmedabad
This suicide prevention centre counsels those dealing with distress or contemplating an end to their lives, and also provides resources and opportunities to help others in suicide prevention. Working since 1998, the organisation is run by trained volunteers who only undertake reach out to students, terminally-ill patients, army personnel, senior citizens and professional communities. Call them on all days, from 1pm-7pm, on +91 79 26305544/26300222 or email email@example.com.
13. Hope Helpline, Kota
Located in Rajasthan, Kota is famous for its education centre just as it is infamous for the student suicides due to stress and lack of support. In 2016, the Hope Helpline, an erstwhile support system for students, was revived by the district administration with help from local coaching centres and Dr ML Agarwal, a local clinical psychologist. The helpline service is available for students across the country, who can speak to volunteers by calling 0724 433 3666.