An emotional support helpline that works to prevent suicides
According to reports by the World Health Organization (WHO), over 19,000 people committed suicide in 2011. The numbers have only gone up ever since and there are only a very few numbers of organizations that are working with suicide prevention. Kaan Pete Roi is one such organization founded by Yeshim Iqbal which is working to provide a platform for people of all ages and demography to share their thoughts under a therapeutic model. The organization started its operations on April 28, 2013 after Yeshim Iqbal, who used to reside in Boston at the time, worked in an organization with a similar model under Befrienders Worldwide, which is a volunteer action to prevent suicide.
The moment Kaan Pete Roi (KPR) began their operations, the name spread like wildfire by word of mouth, without having to engage in much advertisement in the traditional sense. While speaking to Ashik Abdullah, who is part of the management team, Dhaka Tribune go to know how the volunteer recruitment process takes place. The applicants, after the first interview with the management team, have to go through a minimum of 30 hours of various training. The identity of the volunteers is kept low-key to maintain anonymity. This is done for various reasons, one being, to ensure the callers do not have any dependency on a specific individual as they share very sensitive and private information about themselves. KPR also takes into consideration the mental health of the volunteers as well, providing an environment for them to share anything and everything with each other.
“We do not work with rescuing someone, at least not yet. We focus more on providing a platform for the callers to talk to someone, which significantly reduces the risk of someone committing suicide,” Ashik added. On average, 30 to 35 calls are made every day within KPR’s operational 12 hours. According to him, these numbers saw a sharp increase during the months of lockdown due to the ongoing pandemic as more people were stuck home and naturally were more susceptible to mental breakdowns. Currently, KPR has a pool of 60 volunteers.
Psychiatrists and psychologists around the world did not initially recognize this approach of treatment, but eventually over the years (20 years), after it was proven that suicide rates actually decreased in the places where ‘at risk’ people could talk to someone and where volunteer-based action was present, they started recognizing this approach as a legitimate method of treatment.
Mental health issues in Bangladesh are still considered a taboo, where going to a psychiatrist means the patient has lost their mind or has gone mad. This narrative has to change so more people get access to treatment without holding back. “Awareness should be made from a very early age from school about focusing on mental health,” he added. According to him, the government plays a huge role here to educate people about the importance of this. These helplines have to incur heavy costs as they are having to pay toll fees for these calls, discouraging more organizations such as KPR to come up.