Helplines make a difference

But, who will help them work for the needy with manpower?


 He was about to commit suicide at the City railway station, but at the last moment thought of checking out the SAHAI helpline. That made all the difference.
Umesh had read about the helpline in the newspapers. He narrated his story to the helpline staff, and said he was left with no choice but to end his own life, as well as that of his child. The counsellor who listened him assured him that SAHAI would help him look for a job. Umesh is now working at the General Post Office, thanks to the helpline. Though the job is temporary, it has given him a new will to live.

200 calls per month
SAHAI, the helpline that works on suicide prevention, has dealt with many such cases since its inception in 2002. In fact, on an average it gets about 200 calls per month. Girish Mehta, one of the counsellors, says, “Generally, people want someone to listen to their problems. Unfortunately, nobody has the time to do that today. I think 50 per cent of a person’s problems get resolved and he becomes calm if he talks to someone.”  
There are many other helplines in the City catering to different groups, who feel there is a need to improve their quality.

Shobhana, a counsellor in Makkala Sahayavani, the child helpline, points out that although people have become more sensitive to child labour and other abuse on children, the helpline needs to be promoted a lot.

 Giving an insight into how the Sahayavani functions, she says, “Someone had called, informing me about a few children working at the roadside near Hotel Chalukya. I immediately contacted the police in the area and asked them to rescue the children.” The police then take them to Child Welfare Committee (CWC) for further action. The helpline gets about 20-25 calls every day, of which only half are genuine.

According to Premkumar Raja, trustee of Nightingale Medical Trust that handles the Helpline for senior citizens, there is room for improvement, though they are happy to collaborate with the police. “Our centre is presently on the second floor of Shivajinagar bus stand. So, senior citizens find it difficult to reach us. We have requested the police to perhaps shift it to the ground floor. Secondly, we need more volunteers. Also, we are reduced to one police constable from three. As the problems of senior citizens are coming up more, we will require more police personnel,” says Raja.

3,000 cases solved
The helpline, which has solved around 3,000 cases since its formation in 2002, also wants to implement automated calls to improve the quality of service.
“But this can happen only if some corporate company can volunteer to make the software for us,” he says. 

Hema Deshpande of Vanitha Sahayavani, a women’s helpline, feels that more staff is always welcome. Not only do they train the volunteers but they have also been giving refresher training to the cops, who work with them. However, perhaps due to manpower crunch, the helpline is left with only one police constable, out of the initial five. “We are told that once the police get new recruits, some will be diverted to us,” says Deshpande.
The helpline solves around 1,500 cases a year and gets around 10-15 calls a day. Talking about improvement, she reveals that she wants to concentrate on documenting the helpline’s work since it was set up in 1999. She also wants to extend the helpline’s service to districts.

Helpline No: 25497777

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