The State Health Department has plans to train its personnel to pick up signs of suicidal tendencies among farmers. In the month of September, as many as 20,000 Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHA) workers in Marathwada and Vidarbha will be trained to report cases of farmers and their families reeling under depression on toll-free number 104.
The helpline service, operated by the Directorate of Health Services, also provides mental health counselling and blood-on-call service in the state. While blood-on-call service is provided round-the-clock, mental health helpline counsellors are available from 9 am to 9 pm through the week.
“The 14 worst-affected districts of drought-hit Vidarbha and Marathwada regions have been targeted. As many as 20,000 workers will be trained to pick up signs of depression, alcoholism and related health problems among farmers and their . These cases will be actively followed up and the families will be counselled continually,” said Manish Renghe, Assistant Director of Health Services, Maharashtra.
Experts, however, were of the opinion that the issue of farmer suicides in India was more an economic one rather than of mental health. “In India, 50 per cent of suicides take place due to psycho-social pressures, such as poverty. The farmers are reeling under debt that they have no means to repay. Counselling cannot replace the problems created by dearth of hard cash,” said Paras Sharma, ?Programme Coordinator of iCALL, the Psychosocial Helpline at Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS). Sharma opined that the surviving families of the farmers who have committed suicide, however, do need a lot of counselling to cope with their lives.
According to the National Crime Records Bureau data of 2014, 16,307 suicides were recorded in Maharashtra, of which 9.5 per cent cases were of farmers taking their lives. Mostly, the farmers gulped pesticide to commit suicide. “A farmer has easy access to these killer agents. Majority of the suicides are pesticide-related deaths,” said Dr Krishna Kulkarni, deputy director, Government Forensic Science Laboratory, Kalina.
In 2015, nine districts – Nashik, Ahmednagar, Solapur, Kolhapur, Beed, Latur, Osmanabad, Nanded and Parbhani – recorded poor rainfall. Till now, as many as 377 farmers have committed suicide, including Beed (177), Osmanabad (98), Latur (61) and Parbhani (41).
Published Date: Sep 10, 2015