GOA, India — The Archdiocese of Goa and Daman has launched a 24-hour emergency suicide-prevention helpline to proactively address the escalating suicide rates in the region.
“Life is given by God, and only he has the power to take it back,” said Archbishop Filipe Neri Sebastião do Rosário Ferrão of Goa and Daman at the May 24 announcement of the “God Saves Life-line” initiative.
“In today’s society, we need to offer hope to the people that God has created them in love and that he still loves them … and this hope is what ‘God Saves Life-line’ is expected to offer.”
Archbishop Ferrão inaugurated the project by leading a prayer service and imparting his blessing, while commissioning the initiative to the Diocesan Center for Missionary Animation in Old Goa. Located about eight miles from the capital city of Panjim, the center is near the renowned Basilica of Bom Jesus that holds a reliquary of St. Francis Xavier and draws daily an average of 5,000-plus devotees and visitors.
“Life is important, and it is a precious gift of God, for we are created in his image and likeness,” Father Mario Saturnino Dias, creator of the project and director for the center, told CNA May 25.
“It’s concerning to witness, while reading daily newspapers [with] reports [of] the scourge of modern times: that people are undertaking extreme steps in committing suicide,” he said, adding: “Every human being has an inner urge to live and also an urge to save life, irrespective of caste, creed or religion.”
The director recounted that, over the last two decades, the suicide rate in the country has been “mounting steadily.” More than 180,000 suicides were reported for 2010 and claimed a younger population, between the ages of 15 to 29 years. According to the priest, many suicides also go unreported.
The National Crime Records Bureau for the Ministry of Home Affairs reports that the average suicide rate in Goa is 15.8 per 100 thousand — above the national average of 11.4 — an “alarmingly distressing” fact, putting the state in 10th position countrywide.
“To me, saving one life is as important as saving a thousand lives,” Father Dias said.
“If somebody becomes aware of receiving hope in hopelessness; finds openness of love, care, affection, concern and positive energy; assistance of qualified counselors, a depressed life situation can bring optimistic change.”
He noted that the challenges youth face in India range from family poverty, drug abuse and alcoholism, failure in love, dowry disputes, rural illiteracy, ignorance and superstitions to agricultural challenges, bankruptcy loans and many other causes.
Father Dias strongly emphasized the “important of the role of the parents” in bringing up their children.
He urged parents, “Teach your children to appreciate life and be trained to accept gracefully the many frustrations which are part of life, so that their tolerance level is increased.”
Callers are assured of confidentiality and can also be provided help through a state-wide network of government services like hospitals, law enforcement and legal bodies such as police, the fire department and associations like Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Caritas and other Church bodies.
“It is a good sign a help line has been launched. ... Such help lines act as a preventive measure to the members of the society to avert tragedy and save lives,” Dr. Ivonne Pereira, head of the Department of Psychiatry for Goa Medical College, told CNA.
The doctor released the sixth issue of Celebrate God’s Love, a magazine published by the center as an effort to re-evangelize those whose faith is dwindling.
Ashok Menon, director of Goa Fire and Emergency Services, also released new promotional car stickers for the “God Saves Life-line.” He said the personnel assisting in the calls should be able to “know not just what to do, but how to do so as they offer their services in helping people in distress.”
Local individuals experiencing suicidal feelings or those who want to prevent suicide by another person displaying such tendencies can call the “God Saves Help-line” at: +91832 22-8-44-33.