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Dr. Lakshmi Vijayakumar: Understanding Million Broken Hearts!

The founder of Sneha!

Having begun her practice over 25 years ago, Dr Lakshmi Vijaykumar, Head of the Department of Psychiatry at a multi-speciality hospital in Chennai, is renowned for her research on suicide prevention strategies.

Her extensive work in the field earned her honorary fellowships at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, in London and the Royal College of Physicians in Edinburgh. An Honorary Associate Professor at the University of Melbourne, she is also on the World Health Organisation’s International Network for Suicide Research and Prevention. In 2015, she received the Ringel Services Award for her exceptional contribution to this domain.

Dr. Vijaykumar brought about the inclusion of suicide prevention in the National Mental Health Policy. One of her brainwaves that came out of her research is SNEHA, India’s premier suicide prevention centre, founded in 1986. This initiative has pioneered the field of suicide intervention for the past three decades, opening its services to more than 3,00,000 people. SNEHA is manned by carefully screened volunteers and funded by public donations. Services are open 24×7 for tele-callers, while 14 hours every day are dedicated for visits. Over the years, this NGO has consistently reached out to those in emotional distress, offering timely support, coping mechanisms and interventions. The efforts of this initiative have inspired more organisations to take forward this social cause.

For over 3 decades, SNEHA has been staffed entirely by volunteers from various walks of life. What is strikingly distinct is their care, warmth and earnestness to “be there” for the person in distress.  Dr Lakshmi Vijayakumar, a voice for quiet sufferers, is truly a beacon the society needs today.

 

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