Student suicides a grave crisis in India
New Delhi, Jun 06: Suicide is the act of killing oneself intentionally. Today, suicide is one of the leading causes of death worldwide. World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared that it is a global phenomenon, with about 77% of cases from middle- and low-income countries, as of 2019.
According to the NCRB's Accidental Deaths and Suicides in India (ADSI) report, 2020, a total of 1,53,052 suicides were reported in the country during 2020 showing an increase of 10.0% in comparison to 2019 and the rate of suicides has increased by 8.7% during 2020 over 2019.
The report notes that students account for around 8.2% of deaths by suicide in the country. The data shows 64,114 people under the age of 30 took their own lives in 2020.
Of total suicides committed by students, 13.2% were reported in Maharashtra (1,648 suicides out of 12,526) followed by 11.7% in Odisha 1,469 suicides), 9.2% in Madhya Pradesh (1,158 suicides), 7.4% in Tamil Nadu (930 suicides) and 5.6% in Jharkhand (704 suicides).
Majority of suicides, 19,909 in total, were reported in Maharashtra followed by 16,883 in Tamil Nadu, 14,578 in Madhya Pradesh, 13,103 in West Bengal, and 12,259 in Karnataka accounting for 13 per cent, 11 per cent, 9.5 per cent, 8.6 per cent and 8 per cent of the total suicides, respectively, it showed.
highest number (22,372) was of house-wives followed by students (5,559) and daily wage earners (4,493). A total of 22 transgender have committed suicide. Out of 22 transgender, 5 were 'Unemployed Persons' and 9 were 'Daily Wage Earners', 2 each were 'Self-employed Persons' and 'Housewives', while 4 fall under 'Other' category.
Several causes can be blamed for suicide: mental conditions like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, personality disorders, etc., physical ailments like cancer, chronic diseases, etc., substance abuse or withdrawal from the same, excessive stress, academic failure, bullying, domestic violence, physical, mental or emotional abuse, etc. The leading cause of suicide in India is family problems, followed by illnesses (both mental and physical) and drug/alcohol abuse. Other causes include academic stress/failure, loss of face in society, unemployment, bankruptcy, failure of crops (for farmers), love affairs, dowry cases, death of family/friend, etc.
Statistics in India
The Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study of India gives an insight into the situation in India. Suicide is the leading cause of death in India between the ages of 15 and 39, accounting for 52.6% and 47.4% of deaths among women and girls and men and boys, respectively.
The suicide rate in India was 10.4 (calculated per lakh of the population) in 2019. It is estimated that 85,900 women and girls and 1,09,470 men and boys died by suicide. This accounts for 2.1% of all deaths in India. The rate of suicide has reduced since 1990, but it is still significantly large. Southern states like Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Karnataka, etc., are more prone to report suicide-related deaths. After the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting lockdowns in 2020, the rate of suicide increased by 0.9.
It is also estimated that about 200 more people display non-fatal suicidal thoughts and behaviour for every suicide, with 15 fresh attempts because of the same. About 5% of the population has some suicidality in India.
Women and girls exhibit more suicidal tendencies than men and boys, but more men and boys actually go through with it. Gender differences in suicidal tendencies are because of cultural and social risk factors in India like forced or early marriages, domestic violence, young parenthood, dowry-related mental, physical and emotional trauma, lack of economic dependence, and victim-blaming in rape or assault, etc.
It is important to note that though mental disorders are the major causes of suicide-related deaths in high-income countries, it is not so for India.
The most common method of suicide is hanging, accounting for nearly 50% of the deaths, followed by ingestion of harmful chemicals (20%) like pesticides, phenyl, etc. Overdosing, self-immolation, etc., are other methods. Self-immolation, the act of killing oneself by burning or setting oneself on fire, is said to have a historical significance and is linked to the sati system of pre-independence India.
Government of India
The Government of India became concerned about the increase in suicide rate in the country, kicking into action the development of a national suicide prevention strategy. Easier access to rehabilitation and treatment programs for drug/alcohol abusers, mental health programs, etc., increasing mental health awareness at the school level, upholding women's rights and improved efforts to protect them were some recommendations for the strategy. The Indian Penal Code (IPC) Section 309 had criminalised suicide and stated punishment as imprisonment for a year or more. In 2017, the Mental Health Care Act was passed, thus deleting section 309 of the IPC and decriminalising the act of committing suicide.
However, India is expected to fall short of reducing the rate to a third by 2030, according to a study in The Lancet Psychiatry Journal.
What can you do?
It is important to understand that suicide, though a choice willingly made before committing it, might sometimes just occur as a last resort to someone who has fought long and hard or as a quick escape. This problem needs to be addressed without the taboos often associated with such topics. Being aware of the causes of suicide, recognising suicidal thoughts and behaviours in oneself or others, and seeking out help for the person in need are basic requirements for the country today.
If you/r family/friends require help, please get in touch with any suicide prevention helpline: 9152987821 (iCall), 1800-5990019 (Kiran: Mental Health Rehabilitation Helpline), 9820466726 (AASRA NGO)