MUMBAI 08/01/10 : For the last one week, KEM Hospital’s head of psychiatry Dr Shubhangi Parkar has been getting frantic calls from parents and teachers asking for advice on how to handle their children. The spate of suicides by youngsters has understandably put parents on the edge, she says, adding that an unhealthy situation has developed in the process. “A parent told me that she had kept the TV switched off in attempt to protect her children from news of the suicides,’’ says Dr Parkar. This solution is worse than the problem, believes the senior psychiatrist: “We have to with our children.’’
Can there be an effective way of checking suicides, especially in a country that sees around 366 people end their lives every day? Yes we can, say doctors.
Use Civic Health Posts
Social psychiatrist Dr Harish Shetty feels that Mumbai can use its health services to effectively blot out suicides. “Suicides are becoming an epidemic that needs urgent public health intervention on the lines of malaria and dengue,’’ he says. “Mumbai has hundreds of health posts where screening for various ailments takes place. That is how we controlled malaria. Similarly, if early signs of depression are also picked up, it would help prevent many deaths,’’ he adds.
The LD Module
Dr Vishal Sawant, head of the psychiatry department of Cooper Hospital in Juhu, gives the example of the successful programme of identifying children with learning disability (LD) in schools. Schools appoint counsellors who identify children with LD and work towards rehabilitating them. “The same infrastructure can be used to screen children for depression,’’ he says.
Involving The Family Doctor
Studies have shown that early detection and treatment—whether in the form of psycho therapy or medication—is most effective in reducing the burden of depression. Dr Shamsah Sonawalla from Jaslok Hospital cites the example of how the Gotland Island of Sweden, had, in a pilot study shown a 50% drop in emergency hospitalisation rates. “The study involved training general practitioners to detect depression,’’ she says, adding that hospitalisation rose to normal rates when the study was discontinued.
Family Ties Bind
Families and schools can be the most effective tools, says Dr Parkar. “One of the emerging problems in our society is the lack of ventilation. When children are worked up, they need to have a mechanism by which they can air their feelings,’’ she says. “Parents have to empathise with their children and give them hope.’’