“If you find your depression getting worse and worse, seek professional help. Needing additional help doesn’t mean you’re weak. Sometimes, the negative thinking in depression can make you feel like you’re a lost cause, but depression can be treated and you can feel better! Don’t forget about these self-help tips, though. Even if you’re receiving professional help, these tips can be part of your treatment plan, speeding your recovery and preventing depression from returning.”
This was the response of Elizabeth Wall-Smith to the last words of 21-year old Pulyala Raju before he committed suicide on Tuesday. Raju, an Integrated Master’s student at the University of Hyderabad, had updated his Facebook status saying, “Depression Depression it’s kills me daily” at around 3.30 pm. Elizabeth responded an hour later. But it seems that he hadn’t read it. Had he done so, perhaps, we would not have been writing this.
Who is this Elizabeth Wall-Smith? “I live in Australia. I am a social worker. I visited India briefly in November 2011. I have not met Raju personally. I only know him through Facebook. I had conversations/chats about his personal life, friendships and his difficulties in accessing help for his depression,” she told City Express.
When she responded to his last post, she wasn’t aware that he would end his life shortly. According to her, Raju had been in contact with her off and on for a little while. Recalling the chats she had with him, she said, “His girlfriend had cheated on him and he was having difficulties with friendships. I don’t really know the reasons why Raju took his life.”
But she was clear about one thing. “He did not feel supported at the university or who to turn to. I tried my best to support him and give him information and tips on depression,” she explained, adding that Raju had difficulties accessing appropriate support or help in the university. “That is why I mentioned a professional worker. As a social worker, I am probably more in tune to respond to such posts than the average Facebook user. I don’t know how hard it is to access support or medical help in India. It’s very sad and I will miss his friendship,” she said. Elizabeth says she has conversations with many Indian Facebook users about depression, problems in life, work, family, relationships, visa applications to work study in Australia etc.
The University of Hyderabad provides counselling to students in need of support through its faculty in the Center for Health Psychology. When contacted, they said Raju had never sought their help. “Over the last six years, we have counselled many students and surely prevented many suicides. Students should identify clear hints and indications from their fellow friends and we can give professional help,” said a professor on condition of anonymity.
With five faculty members ready to counsel students on all working days, the center also holds an annual event called ‘Inpsyght’ to create awareness on psychological issues. “Officially, it is not a counselling cell. We do it at an individual level when students approach us and thus, we do not maintain records,” the professor said, adding, “there are many ways of seeking help but the decision lies in the hands of those in need of help.” Incidentally, Raju was the third Integrated Master’s student and Dalit hailing from Telangana, to have committed suicide in the last couple of years at UoH.