Lakshmi Vijayakumar, founder of Sneha, a suicide prevention centre in Chennai and a member of WHO's International Network on Suicide Prevention and Research, said on Friday that lack of "real-life friends" and being snubbed online leads to suicides among youngsters.
Speaking on the sidelines of the 16th National Befrienders India Conference organised by the Lifeline Foundation here, Vijayakumar said: "Youngsters are cultivating virtual friends and not real life friends. When they want to talk to someone, they don't have real friends for support. Secondly, many can't handle rejection on the cyber platform well. Cyber bullying has gone up...yes, social media is emerging as a reason."
Lifeline Foundation, a suicide prevention helpline, has brought together 50 volunteers and helpers from 13 Befrienders India centres besides ten people from Sri Lanka at the three-day conference that began Friday.
Vijayakumar said there is a strong similarity between the neighbouring countries in terms of reasons and methods of committing suicide. However, suicide rates are going up in India whereas the island nation is seeing a decrease.
"This is probably due to the loss of traditional support systems like family. In both countries, the reasons are mainly family problems and the methods are use of pesticides."
According to WHO estimates, every year almost one million people commit suicide, a "global" mortality rate of 16 per 100,000 or one death every 40 seconds.
In the last 45 years, suicide rates have increased by 60 percent worldwide.
Suicide is among the three leading causes of death among those aged 15-44 years in some countries and the second leading cause of death in the 10-24 years age group; these figures do not include suicide attempts, which are up to 20 times more frequent than actual suicides.
Although suicide rates have been highest among elderly males, suicides by young people have been increasing to such an extent that they are now at highest risk in a third of countries, both developed and developing.
"The suicide rates in India have increased so much that it is at par with the developed nations," the expert said.