In observation of Suicide prevention week, DIMHANS, Dharwad collaborated with University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad and Krishi Community Radio to organise a suicide prevention awareness program. Dr. Mahesh Desai, Director of DIMHANS, and Dr Sunanda G T, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatric Nursing, DIMHANS, held a telephone conversation with farmers of Dharwad district. They attended several calls made by farmers who asked questions on mental health, specifically depression, anxiety and substance abuse, and management of these problems. Farmers were also given information on suicide prevention, how to identify a person at risk, and steps to take to prevent a person from committing suicide. This tele conversation was recorded by Krishi Community Radio Station FM 90.4 mhz, which will be broadcasting through FM to reach 25 to 30 kms of surrounding villages of Dharwad. Dr. Mahesh Desai expressed that talking to farmers and addressing their concerns was one of the most satisfying programs organised by DIMHANS as farmers are the most vulnerable group and at high risk for committing Suicide. Village heads were encouraged to bring the vulnerable persons to DIMHANS for detail evaluation and treatment. Dr. Nithyashree, head of Krishi Community Radio, expressed her satisfaction with the program and requested Dr. Mahesh Desai for a special program to address youth mental health.
It has been reported that among all the suicides in India, 7.4% are people in the farming sector, and in 2019 at least 10,281 persons involved in the farming sector ended their lives, of which 1992 persons were from Karnataka. Farmers ensure the food supply of the nation; hence, any danger to their wellbeing is a cause of national concern. Therefore, high number of suicide deaths among the farming community has been a matter of worry for quite some time now. Farmer suicide has been attributed to several factors such as poverty, crop failure, debt, breakage of social ties, social isolation, alienation from society, loss of social status, etc. In India, 60% of the population is engaged in agricultural activities, however, the actual contribution of agriculture to GDP is only 14.6%. This huge gap between human input and economic output throws light over the poor performance of policy makers in transferring such a large share of human effort and resource into economic benefit. The farmers bear the heavy brunt of this economic failure, sometimes forcing them to suicide as they are unable to cope with the stress.
DIMHANS in collaboration with ICMR is actively researching on difficulties faced by the farmers in Dharwad. Dr. Raghavendra Nayak, Associate Professor of Psychiatry, DIMHANS who is also the chief investigator of this research project reported that his team is conducting an investigation to identify the factors leading to farmer suicide. They are using two-arm research design. One aspect of the study involves visit to family members of the farmers who commit suicide to understand the difficulties or risks that the farmers endured which pushed them to suicide. The other aspect of the study involves visit to farmers in the same community who face similar difficulties, but are able to face it without resorting to self-harm. This way by comparing the two groups, the research team will be able to pinpoint the exact risk and protective factors, which can be used to prevent farmer suicides in the future. Apart from the research, the team also offers screening for mental health and brief therapy intervention whenever it is needed.
In the past, DIMHANS in collaboration with University of Agricultural Sciences had initiated a program called “Raita Chethana” to support the farming community holistically. A helpline for farmers (1800 425 1150) was started which is being operated 24/7 hours. The helpline operators have been trained in active listening and counselling skills by DIMHANS mental health experts. This helpline is being utilised extensively by the farmers. Further, a team of mental health professionals visit the agriculture university frequently, and screen the farmers for mental health problems and provide counselling. Those requiring medication and inpatient services are referred back to DIMHANS.