Itss okay to talk about not being okay

The last sunset of 2019, saw Val stand on an edge of the cliff
at Aguada and contemplate the feasibility of surviving the drop to the choppy waters below. The 42-year-old wasn’t hoping to set a dive record, she just wasn’t sure she’d die for sure if she took the plunge.

“Some days are harder than others,” says the homemaker struggling through a marital separation and the loss of home and family.

In sunny Goa, those wishing to end it all, aren’t distracted by the state’s famous de-stress appeals.

2018: Goa suicide rates 16.7%. National Suicide rates

According to the National Crime Record Bureau’s findings for 2018, while the national average of suicides in the country was 10.2%, in Goa it was 16.7%. The numbers for 2019 are not out yet.

A further idea of how grave this issue is comes from the suicide prevention helpline run by COOJ Mental Health Foundation from 1pm to 7 pm, Monday to Friday.

“We receive an average of 12 calls a day,” says Donna Noronha, coordinator, suicide prevention programme, COOJ. “When we started in 2013, we averaged 16 calls a month.”

Yes awareness efforts have helped get more people to reach for the phone rather than the rope or pesticide bottle, but much more is required, feel those dealing firsthand with the issue.

“Suicide is what a waste of a life!” says Prachi Khandeparkar of NGO, Sangath.

The psychologist was one of the main driving forces behind the recently concluded forth mental health film festival Mindscope held on December 22 in Goa, less than a month ago. The festival had the survivor (patient) perspective and the professional’s perspective. the champions shared their stories and experiences of conquering their mental health challenges and redefining lives. It also highlighted the unconventional approach taken by mental health professionals towards their work while serving the patients.

She feels strongly the need for change in society where those contemplating suicide can reach out for help rather than become introverted, self-loathing and negative, and those seeking to help those dealing with depression and suicidal thoughts can think of looking after the person rather than wonder what people around will say.

“Suicide is a cry for help,” she says. Elaborating that those dealing with negative emotions fail to see that every problem has a solution, the Panaji-resident adds, “It is okay to not feel okay, but taking your life is not okay. There is scope for improvement, but that will happen only if you live.”

Calling suicide an individual’s attempt to escape pain and suffering, Panaji-based filmmaker Tinky George says the act is always a tragedy for the family and ultimately a mystery as to why he or she chose the path.

“Even I get depressed,” says the director of Glory, a full-length feature film in Konkani. It’s not easy dealing with film scripts being rejected or a movie not drawing as many viewers as hoped. “That’s when I talk to friends, go for a movie, listen to music… that calms me down,” says the 43-year-old. “Interacting with others and laughing really helps me to put aside negative thoughts.”

Bardroy Barretto, director of the Konkani film, Nachom-ia Kumpasar, opines that for those in the film industry it is “important to not get consumed by the spotlight”.

The Mumbai-based filmmaker, who shuttles between Canacona and the Maharashtrian metro, says his close-knit family and friends in both states keep him grounded.

“Face the criticism, but don’t concentrate on the negatives. Think of the positives,” is the 50-year-old’s advice, which he personally follows.

Khandeparkar agrees. “I personally keep a book listing all my strengths. Every time something good happens to me or I accomplish something or I’m praised for something, I note it down. When I’m feeling low I go through the book and it helps me put the negative I’m feeling into perspective.”

She also has and suggests having one or two trustworthy friends who will listen rather than bombard with advice.

Signing off, Dona Noronha of COOJ says, “For everyone life is a personal challenge that they’re dealing with. All they need is support.” [H]