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Anonymity on social media enables people to reach out to experts, says Dr Natasha D’cruz, founder-member, Reach out to Life Foundation

Reach Out to Life Foundation was started in 2009 by an ensemble of psychologists to address the issue of suicides among youth and encourage development of city youth.

Updated: Sep 10, 2018 17:42:36

By Roopesh Raj

Dr Natasha D’cruz, clinical psychologist and expressive arts therapist. (HT PHOTO )

Reach out to Life foundation was started in 2009 by an ensemble of psychologists to address the issue of suicide among youth and encourage development of city youth. Dr Natasha D’cruz, clinical psychologist and expressive arts therapist, is the founder-member of the group. Excerpts from an interview

Reach Out to Life Foundation was started in 2009 by an ensemble of psychologists to address the issue of suicides among youth and encourage development of city youth. Dr Natasha D’Cruz, clinical psychologist and expressive arts therapist, is founder-member of the group. Excerpts from an interview

How many years has the NGO existed?

We started our first programme in 2009 with students of the Masters in Psychology programme at Wadia College. The NGO eventually was registered as a charitable institute in 2012.

What is the goal/objective?



The NGO’s goal is to educate the community on mental health issues and provide young people with coping resources so they are able to deal with the knocks of life better. The vision of the NGO is based on the principle of ‘social interest’ as proposed by Alfred Adler, which is an inner sense of connectedness to all. It’s when a community lacks social interest that people feel isolated, helpless and hopeless. Inculcating and nurturing social interest is the core objective of the NGO



What all does the NGO do to reach out to the youth and kids?

We undertake workshops and seminars in schools and colleges on resilience to help students deal with life’s stress. We have a newsletter that is compiled by the volunteers which focuses on themes that are relevant to them. We run a 24-hour suicide prevention helpline, +91 9881020211, where people can call in and have someone listen to them. We have meetings called Reach Out Cafes, which is a personal development session. As part of our outreach in the community and to develop social interest, we have a food distribution programme every Monday, where we distribute 200 meals to homeless or in need youth. To encourage other non profits, we conduct a ‘Reciprocity Ring’ every year where we pick four other non profits that work with children or young adults and ask them for a wish list of resources they need. We then approach the community through friends and family and try to help realise their wish lists. We conduct awareness programmes on an ongoing basis, like spoken word poetry nights or awareness drives on campuses, to highlight mental health issues.

How have you promoted the workshops and helpline ­ which target audiences and why?

We promote it through the workshops we do, we provide every participant of the workshop a card with our helpline number and let them know they can call if they feel the need. Our target audience is children from the age of 10 to young adults as that is the age where coping resources can be developed as well as the highest suicide rates.

What’s the toughest call you remember taking on the call?

Most of the calls are pretty difficult, the difficulty arises as the calls are anonymous so follow up is next to impossible. Although the person has calmed down and isn’t suicidal by the end of the call, we aren’t sure if they have the needed advice and seen a professional for assistance.

From your experience, the five biggest pointers that signify a suicide threat.

Someone talking about or threatening suicide or hurting themselves; searching for ways to hurt or kill themselves; talking of feeling trapped or stuck; feeling hopeless and helpless and saying their life has no purpose; increase in alcohol or drug consumption and changes in moods.

From your experience, the five key steps to take once a threat has been identified.

Talk to the person about what you perceive as suicidal ideation; actively listen to them; insistence they seek professional assistance; tell their friends and family so they know to look out for them, and be proactive and follow-up treatment plans.

How much a contribution or aid is social media to:

Increasing suicide rate:­

I don’t believe there is any conclusive research that has linked social media use to increasing suicide rates, but there have been studies that have linked social media to increase in anxiety and depression and mental illnesses increase the risk of suicides. More than social media, it’s probably technology as a whole, as it helps us stay isolated and that isolation could contribute to mental health issues.

Suicide prevention programme:­

Social media is where lots of millennials get their news from these days, so social media can definitely help with prevention and awareness programmes. Often because of the anonymity of social media, it enables people to reach out to us through our social media pages and chats.

First Published: Sep 10, 2018 15:25:55

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