29th July – The crime of silence around the country’s suicide epidemic

Every 40 seconds, someone somewhere in the world takes his or her own life. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), for every 100,000 women, about 16 women take their own lives.

suicide epidemic

Facts and figures –

  • By the data available, India’s suicide rate for women is the sixth highest in the world. About a decade ago, a bulk of young female deaths in the country were attributed to child-bearing and related causes. Today, suicide is the leading cause of death among young women.
  • We lose about 25 men for every 100,000 men to suicide. Suicide is the second biggest cause of death, especially amongst younger men, exceeded only by death due to traffic accidents.
  • The Lancet series, the last such extensive study on suicides in India, placed the death toll of suicide in 2010 at 187,000.

Understanding the causes –

  • Suicide is a complex phenomenon and can be precipitated by a range of inter-related factors laced with a sense of hopelessness.
  • The two mental ill-health conditions most often associated with suicide are alcoholism and depression.
  • Amongst the young, the commonest causes seem related to academic performance, and a “let down” in romance.
  • Other factors stem from opportunity deficits and disadvantages determined by caste, economic and other forms of social inequity, political ideology, domestic violence, bullying, harassment, and chronic diseases, among others.

Steps taken by India –

  • Until recently, suicide was a criminal offense under the Indian Penal Code. This pushed a bulk of the reporting underground.
  • Beyond the law lie deep-rooted cultural and social beliefs that consider suicide a taboo, and its discussion, a no-go area. Most organized religions do not allow for the same rites and rituals of death for those who have killed themselves. This is because certain religions and cultures consider the taking of one’s life a sin.
  • The feeling of guilt this induces does not help the cause. Not only does it rob an individual’s space to “come out” and talk about it, but it also strips the family, loved ones and friends of space to grieve after a loss.

Solutions –

  • The first of these is to be more responsive to people in our immediate environment. This includes stopping by and checking on that friend who has been a little withdrawn lately, offering an ear to someone who needs to vent.
  • Psychotherapy or Talk Therapy is a type of psychosocial intervention that can effectively reduce suicide risk. This can a) help people learn new ways of dealing with stressful experiences through training; b) help individuals recognise their own thought patterns and consider alternative actions when thoughts of suicide arise; c) reduce the rate of suicide among people with borderline personality disorder, a serious mental illness characterized by unstable moods, relationships, self-image, and behavior.
  • Decision-makers and policies must ensure reduced access to means that promote thoughts of suicide. In order to address the immense need for viable mental health care services, there is also a need to develop scalable and evidence-based models of care across the country. The Maharashtra government’s partnership with Tata Trusts on mental health initiatives in Nagpur is one such example.

Conclusion –

Each and every individual can make a difference, and all it takes is one little step to reach out to someone who is in need. It is important to listen and connect and seek professional help whenever there is a need for it.


Also read: 27th July – The terrorist tag : on the latest amendments to the NIA Act