When the surgeon began treatment to Prem, Raghupathi, Vinodini and Venkatesh, all had only one request — they wanted to be able to eat. All of them are survivors of acid ingestion. Some of them drank acid by mistake. Though they were rushed to the hospital, they suffered grievous injury that left them unable to eat or speak. The path to recovery is arduous and long.
Vinodhini consumed acid mistaking it for water in 2011. Her mother became emotional recalling how for three years she couldn’t eat food. Despite a series of surgeries and still struggling to speak, Vinodini has moved on. She completed her education, works in a private firm and recently got married.
Their surgeon gastroenterologist S.M. Chandramohan, founder president of Eso India, who recounted their experiences and those of others who drank acid to escape troubles, said, “While the patients suffered pain, the family’s faith in the patient and their support has helped them recover.” The stigma attached to suicide prevented the patients from seeking timely treatment, he said. Venkatesh, a photographer who mistakenly drank acid, recalled that he was demoralised as people suspected that he had attempted suicide. This came in the way of seeking medical treatment, he said.
City Police Commissioner A.K. Viswanathan who distributed awards to the survivors said, “Many of those who shared their experiences are from other States but had undergone treatment in government hospitals here.”
Puducherry, Tamil Nadu and Kerala account for around 30-35% of suicides in the country and most people who attempt suicide are in the productive age group. “We have a responsibility to prevent suicides. We need mentors to share our thoughts. Chennai Police has all women police stations and we have counsellors. Anyone who requires help can reach out to us,” he said.
Since 2003, Eso India has been conducting awareness programme to commemorate Suicide Prevention Day observed on September 10.