Suicide Prevention Action Network Project launched for Sikkim

Gangtok, 10 May (IPR):

The SPAN (Sikkim Suicide Prevention Action Network) Project, Sikkim, in partnership with NIMHANS, Bangalore was launched today at ChintanBhawan, Gangtok, in a launch programme organized by Healthcare, Human Services and Family Welfare Department, Government of Sikkim.

The Chief Secretary of Sikkim, AK Shrivastava was present at the function as the chief guest. Joining him on the dais were Secretary-cum-Commissioner/ HC, HS & FWD, Vishal Chauhan, Director General/Health Services, Dr.P.T Bhutia, Principal Director/Health Services, Dr.UttamPradhan, eminent personalities of the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) Bangalore, namely; Dr.B.N Gangadhar/ Director NIMHANS, Dr. Naveen Kumar C/ Professor NIMHANS and Dr. SenthilReddi/ Addl.Professor NIMHANS who were all present at the function which was attended by officials of stakeholder departments, organizations and students and teachers from various schools and colleges.

Secretary-cum-Commissioner/HC, HS & FWD Vishal Chauhan informed that the HC, HS & FWD in partnership with NIMHANS, Bangalore has come up with the SPAN project to reduce morbidity due to suicide and to enhance efficiency of general health care service and response to suicidal behavior and substance abuse and also to deliver multi-level suicide prevention strategies.

The Chief Secretary in his address said that the whole state looks forward to understanding, learning and dealing with mental health issues under the elite guidance and expertise of NIMHANS. He expressed that Sikkim anticipates a positive result and progress to counter suicides under them. The Chief Secretary stated that awareness and a strong community sensitization is core towards understanding issues of mental health.

He remarked that the patient’s first point of contact is the general duty medical officer and hence all health care providers should be sensitized and trained to deal adeptly with mental health issues. He also stated that distress helplines should be kept active and utilized.

In conclusion, the Chief Secretary requested all the stakeholder officials from various departments to kindly co-operate and work towards a productive case study and implementation of methods and procedures at the earliest in the larger interest of the state of Sikkim.

Dr. SenthilReddi/Addl.Professor, NIMHANS, gave a power point presentation through which he briefed the attendees on the objectives of the SPAN Project and the targets that have been set to achieve and the modules that will be undertaken for the purpose. He said that suicide remains a complex and poorly understood phenomenon and listed out some core module of the WHO for suicide prevention and intervention.

Dr.Reddi added that the goal of NIMHANS is capacity building for the nation and it offers clinical services, trainings, education and research on mental health. He said that the objective of the SPAN project is to reduce morbidity and mortality due to suicides, which arise, from psychological stress, substance abuse and depression.

The SPAN project will work to deliver multi-level suicide prevention strategies, enhance efficiency of general health care service responses to suicidal behaviors and substance abuse/ dependence and facilitate and strengthen multi-sectoral and inter-sectoral collaboration. He also informed about the NDA (NIMHANS Digital Academy), Community Mental Health and Telemedicine Service and Emergency Psychiatry and Acute Care.

Dr. B.N Gangadhar/Director NIMHANS, highlighted that the media needs to be extremely cautious while dealing with any news related to mental health and not indulge in sensationalizing news of anybody committing suicide as it goes a long way in influencing those already dealing with mental health challenges and in most cases, the influence is negative and a trigger for them.

He spoke about the vulnerable groups and that the SPAN Project will equip the state to identify and deal with this threat to the society. Dr. Gangadhar thanked the state for inviting NIMHANS and congratulated the stakeholders for recognizing that suicide and drug abuse is a problem that needs immediate attention and deliberation.

It may be informed here that the SPAN Project is an evidence based program which defines patterns of suicidal behavior and its prevalence in Sikkim.It identifies risk factors for suicidal behavior prospectively, identifies specific interventions effective for the reduction of suicide. A Sikkim specific suicide prevention and intervention plan will be formulated and delivered in joint collaboration with stakeholders of Sikkim. The SPAN Approach will be a Joint Multicenter project in Sikkim, it was informed.