To improve access to mental health in districts of Karnataka, Himalaya Wellness Company, one of India’s leading wellness brands, has partnered with the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) to develop an indigenized pilot model framework for suicide prevention research and surveillance. Titled Project Suraksha, this pilot program will assess the feasibility and acceptability of community-based suicide prevention programs and their cost-effectiveness across varied nodal stakeholder groups involving farmers, laborers, daily wage workers, student communities, media professionals, and women groups. It will also establish a cohort for future longitudinal studies, that is to repeatedly examine the same individuals to detect any changes that might occur over a period. Following the pilot research and feasibility study, the project will be scaled up to a national level over a period of three years.
Suicide is a multifactorial cause of mortality across all stages of a person’s life, with almost one million suicide deaths each year worldwide. According to a National Crime Report Bureau (NCRB) report 2021, Karnataka reported 13,056 suicides in the said period, a 6.5% increase from the year 2020, which accounts for 8% of the total suicides in India, and the rate of suicide in Karnataka is at 19.5%, which is higher than the national average of 12%. As a preliminary phase, Project Suraksha aim at developing an indigenized research model of suicide prevention in Channapatna taluk of Ramanagara district in Karnataka state, with a comprehensive surveillance system in the community that would include early identification, crisis intervention, and referral system. The program is in line with the ‘LIVE LIFE’ program of WHO for suicide prevention.
Speaking on the project, K G Umesh, Director of Human Resources, Himalaya Wellness Company, said,
“At the core of Himalaya’s vision is the ‘Care for Life’ philosophy. Through this partnership with NIMHANS, we endeavor to build a holistic community-based suicide surveillance program to ensure the sustainability and effectiveness of suicide prevention through various interventions, thereby aiming to reduce the suicide rate at the state and national level.”
This initiative outlines evidence-based strategies like restricting access to means of suicide, responsible media reporting of suicide, training programs to promote life skills among the youth, and the early identification and management of the risk of suicide.
Dr. Anish V. Cherian, Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatric Social Work, NIMHANS, and Principal investigator for Project SURAKSHA, shares, “Suicide prevention efforts require coordination and collaboration among multiple sectors of society. These efforts must be inclusive and integrated as no single approach alone can make an impact on an issue as complex as suicide. We are grateful to Himalaya for supporting us in this project, and together we aim to empower suicide prevention state-wide.”
Project Suraksha will be implemented in three phases: analyzing the existing comprehensive suicide prevention programs and current public health situation in the districts, workshops to develop culture/region-specific interventions, implementation of the interventions, and evaluation.