You can conquer the world if you’re alive: Radio as a tool to prevent suicide

Even though the world has advanced technologically, radios are still a primary form of mass media communication in the rural communities of Nepal. Their practicality, affordability and unavailability of other mediums of communication in rural villages make radio an essential commodity. According to an article published in The Himalayan Times, “community radios have been working for social transformation by informing and empowering communities. FM radios are the best tools to pass information to illiterate and rural communities, for all the people can listen to the radio for free.”

Realizing the power of radio to communicate messages to the rural population, a radio program named “BANCHE SANSAR JITINCHHA” (You can conquer the world if you’re alive) has been produced for the promotion of psychosocial support and prevention of suicide. This program is presented by TPO Nepal with the technical support of Niharika Productions and financial support of Australian Aid. It is currently being aired from three local FM stations of Sindhupalchowk district; Radio Sindhu, Radio Melamchi and Radio Helambu.

This program is a mixture of interview, drama and relevant information to seek support. The radio program has completed its phase I where 18 episodes were aired, while Phase II is currently ongoing. The target audience for the first phase were people affected by natural disasters suffering from mental health problems. The second phase focuses more on general mental health problems. The major issues covered in the first phase were suicide prevention, natural disasters/emergencies, post-partum depression, conversion disorder and common mental health problems.

Each episode lasts 30 minutes. The program opens with a poem and an information box which informs listeners where they can get help. A docudrama is then presented for 15 minutes which is the dramatization of real case stories. It helps the audience relate to the symptoms presented in the stories and encourages them to seek support. After this, an expert is interviewed for 10 minutes on the topic of the day (various mental health issues) and a closing narration ends the program.

People usually provide their feedback about the program by sending texts to the radio stations. After listening to the program, many people have reported that they feel less alone and feel mental health conditions are treatable. Some people have also reported that they were able to relate their own problems with the cases presented in the program, which has enabled them to seek health services.

Mr. Dev Raj Subedi from Radio Melamchi estimates that out of a population of 600,000 people in Sindhupalchowk and the neighboring Kavrepalanchowk district, more than 50,000 people of both districts listen to this program. This widespread reach has been successful in spreading awareness about suicide among the people in the community.

"The radio program has contributed a lot to increased mental health awareness in the community. It has specially been effective to generate positive messages about suicide [prevention]. Docudrama based on real stories and expert interview have helped maintain the quality of the program. We have found that this program is a big hit among school children, senior citizens and housewives of this district.”

- Mr. Rambabu Nepal, district focal person of TPO Nepal, Sindhupalchowk district
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