One of the newest anti-suicide awareness drives targeting the Indian community in the UAE has been named Mission Zero Suicide, aptly depicting the ultimate wish of the tens of thousands of community members who are concerned about the increasing number of suicides by their compatriots.
Despite the recent setbacks they have encountered, Indian associations, organisations and missions are going ahead with intensified campaigns to prevent suicides among their compatriots in the UAE.
The spate of suicide cases in the recent months, including that of an anti-suicide crusader, had jolted the awareness campaigns being conducted by various Indian groups. In spite of all that, more and more anti-suicide initiatives are being taken up by the community.
And the focus now is on awareness about financial discipline that would help people avoid getting trapped in debts or to tide over financial troubles, two reasons that have been mainly attributed to the recent suicide cases of many Indians.
The Mission Zero Suicide (MZS) campaign is also focusing on the same while discouraging the Indian expats from taking the extreme step that many of their fellow compatriots have resorted to in this country where they flew in with dreams to build their lives better.
What makes the campaign different is that it is also collecting pledges from individuals to ensure that those who listen to the valuable messages of the campaign are committed to support the cause. The campaign has been launched in public interest by UAE Exchange as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility programme.
They are trying to reach out to the maximum number of Indian expatriates, especially those hailing from Kerala since a high number of those who ended their lives belong to the south Indian state. For this, Manghat said the team is conducting the awareness sessions in labour accommodations, Indian associations and socio-cultural and welfare groups.
Retail Marketing Manager of UAE Exchange Vinod Nambiar said signatures of more than 50,000 people including some celebrities have been collected during the first four weeks of the campaign.
The campaign has already garnered the support of celebrities like Malayalam actors Mohanlal and Dileep, carnatic musician and music director Dakshinamoorthy, member of Indian parliament P. Rajeev etc during their UAE visits. Though the campaign is mainly targeting the Indian community, it has received the support of the Pakistan and Sri Lankan consulates as well.
The 70-day campaign that was launched on June 15 is also using a video to highlight the social issue and the reasons behind it.
After the graphical images of various causes of suicide, the video shows the message from the Indian ambassador to the UAE M. K. Lokesh who talks about how the Indian missions, through the Indian Workers’ Resource Centre (IWRC), have been trying to spread awareness against suicides.
There was a special screening of the video for the heads of all Indian associations under the Indian Community Welfare Committee (ICWC), an umbrella organisation of Indian socio-cultural and welfare bodies registered with the Indian Consulate in Dubai.
“The concept (of MZS) is very good and we would like to extend our full support to this campaign,” said K. Kumar, the convener of ICWC.
According to the organisers, a new version of the video with subtitles in Hindi and Malayalam are being readied to address a larger section of the community. The services of financial or psychological experts are offered in the campaign which is also propagating the toll free helpline number of the IWRC 800-INDIA or 800-46342. Through the 24×7 multi-lingual helpline, Indian expatriates from across the UAE can air their grievances and seek financial, legal and psychological advice.
Gatherings of Awakening
Another anti-suicide campaign launched in the UAE this month aims to hold as many as 150 gatherings to spread the message of secure living.
The Risala Study Circle (RSC) is conducting the campaign as part of a GCC-wide drive that aims to reach out to at least half a million Indian expatriates in six GCC countries. According to the organisers, the campaign is aimed at spreading the messages of financial stability, positive social relationships and value-based and addiction-free lifestyle to the Indian community members from all walks of life.
The gatherings will be held during three month-long awareness sessions conducted at national, zonal, and unit levels of the RSC till September 30. The programme schedule comprises of academic seminars, study camps, workshops, and teens meet etc.
The term of the campaign will be known as “The Period of Awakening” during which RSC will form a dedicated social service wing called Sneha Sangam (Team of Love).
According to the organisers, the major causes of this unfortunate series of events are usually financial insecurity, addiction, and lack of social living.
Advice not enough
However, people like A.K. Sethunath, the president of Kerala Samajam in Ras Al Khaimah, are apprehensive of how effective such messages and pieces of advice through awareness drives could be in preventing the suicidal thoughts of a desperate individual who is neck-deep in debt.
“Many cases that we have seen are of people who were struggling to come out of debt traps,” said Sethunath, who was instrumental in creating a group of nearly 15 socio-cultural organisations in Ras Al Khaimah to conduct awareness programmes against suicide earlier this year.
The union of the social groups followed the opening of a hotline number for community members in debt and distress after a three-member family died in a suicide pact in Ras Al Khaimah.
“After the details of the hotline were published in Khaleej Times, we received several cases. In most cases, they were victims of their own actions. Though we worked together to solve the issues of many, we have realised that it is not something that we can solve by offering advice. For people in financial difficulties, somebody has to offer some practical solutions to restructure and repay their debts. No advice or awareness can be of help at that time,” said Sethunath.
“Awareness may help in the cases of people who are not yet in such troubles. But, there must be some mechanism to assist those who are already in financial crisis and legal cases related to it,” he added.