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Mental wellness Initiative at Tihar jail aids in reduced suicide rate

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A new Mental wellness Initiative at Tihar jail aids in reduced suicide rate initiative in the Tihar jail has helped inmates in improving their mental illness, resulting in reduced number of suicides in the prison.

With over 16,000 inmates, Tihar is the most populated prison in the country.

More than half of the prisoners of the Tihar jail suffer from mental illness. Some suffer from personality disorders and behavioural problems; whereas some are dealing with psychiatric issues – the prisons Resident Medical Officer Dr Sanjay Lakra said Tuesday.

The prison Director General Ajay Kashyap told Delhi High Court Chief Justice Rajendra Menon, Chief Secretary Vijay Dev, and Justice Mukta Gupta that exactly a year ago, the prison had a tie-up with the AIIMS psychiatry department and the Mental Health Foundation of India (MHFI) to work towards improving mental wellness among prisoners.

Kashyap said, “Over the last one year, over 300 counsellers of MHFI and AIIMS doctors started working with the prison department. First, jail officials were trained to identify prisoners with mental issues. We then started working lifting them out of depression. Unlike the previous year, when there were seven cases of suicide, this year, there was only one such case. Even one suicide is one too many. We are working to ensure that there is zero suicide in prison.” He also added that cases of violence have reduced by 30 to 35 percent as compared to previous years.

Explaining the need to improve mental wellness, Dr Lakra said that when a new prisoner is brought to jail, the prisoner is depressed and is often unable to talk about his/her problems. When the inmate is neglected and unable to accept the circumstances; it is a sign of trouble.

Dr Lakra said, “There is a drastic increase in the prevalence of mental disorders or behavioural issues within prison. Around 600-650 inmates are suffering from psychiatric disorders. In this programme, we have trained warders and head warders to identify such prisoners. At the time a prisoner enters the jail, he/she goes through a psychological evaluation and after the evaluation, we work with them. With the help of 300 counsellors, we have been able to have a better jail environment and reduce cases of disobedience and violence among inmates.”

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