Jakarta. The Ministry of Health’s suicide hotline has seen a sharp rise in the number of calls since its launch almost three months ago, officials said on Friday.
Dr. Bella Patriajaya, chairwoman of the Suharto Heerjan Mental Health Hospital, said more Jakartans were turning to the crisis center, reached at the hotline number 500-454, for help with their emotional problems.
“[Before], there were only three or four people calling a day,” said Bella, who works at the West Jakarta hospital chosen by the ministry to run the project.
“After the center was [mentioned] in the media in early January, the number of [callers] is now increasingly high,” he said.
Bella said about 50 to 60 calls were now handled by 30 trained counselors at the 24-hour center, launched on World Mental Health Day in October last year.
The ministry created the center to help reduce the number of suicides in the city.
While no official statistics are available to indicate rising suicides, the Jakarta Police reported 81 cases of suicide last year.
Newspapers have recently reported cases of people jumping to their deaths from mall balconies or stepping in front of trains.
Though the majority of callers at the crisis center confessed to wanting to kill themselves, Bella said, the rest experienced depression and other mental disorders.
Most of the callers, he said, were between the ages of 30 and 50, suffering from a variety of problems, from stress to relationship woes.
“It varies, ranging from job loss, like being demoted,” Bella said. “If it’s a teenager, usually the problem is romance troubles with the opposite sex.
“If the person is above 50 years old complaining about love, usually it’s because their children all live in different cities.”
Dr. Irmansyah, chairman of the Health Ministry’s directorate for medical care, said counselors at the center were not expected to solve problems but should listen with a sympathetic ear.
“If necessary, the caller will be advised to seek optimal care in a hospital, or inform them of the nearest mental health services,” Irmansyah said.
He said the ministry was planning to scale up the project and launch crisis hotlines beyond the capital, especially in stressful areas such as big cities.
World Health Organization data from 2001 pegs the country’s suicide rate at 1.6 to 1.8 incidents per 100,000 people. However, Irmansyah said the number could be “much larger.”
“In Jakarta alone, the suicide rate is more than 10 cases per month,” he said.