16November2018

Andaman Chronicle

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STIGMA, FEAR OF ISOLATION TRIGGER SUICIDES

By Gajanan Khergamker

Hindi film actress Jiah Khan’s death brings to fore the scourge of suicide which is the second highest cause of death in the nation. Mumbai is among top five Indian cities with the most suicides. Among the more recent suicides, it was Bollywood actress Jiah Khan’s which brought to fore, the rate at which suicides have been on the rise in India.

India had been, time and again, been leading the list of countries with rapidly increasing suicide related deaths.

When we talk about the suicide rate in the nation, Mumbai doesn’t lag too far behind. It has, more often than not, been rated among the top five cities in India with a large number of suicide cases. Failed relationships, bad marriages, examination related stress, peer pressure, family discord and work-related stress are few of the major suicide triggers in India. Sadly, even the police are not immune to this trend, Earlier this year; an RTI application filed revealed that a total of 168 policemen committed suicide in the past 10 years in Mumbai alone.

With suicides increasing alarmingly, it will become the leading cause of death in the country. According to a study recently published in the British Medical Journal a couple of months back, it is the leading cause of death among women in India.  The study which covers data recorded 1990 to 2010 suggests there has been a 126 per cent rise in suicide among Indian women during this period. Today, suicide is the second-leading reason of death in India.

Last year, a study pointed out that suicide is the leading cause of death in youngsters between the ages of 15 years – 29 years. Of the 1,14,800 males who committed suicide in India in 2010, 40 per cent were aged 15 to 29, while 56 per cent of the 72,100 women were in the same age bracket.

The study suggested the suicide rate is much higher in rural parts of India and nearly 10 times as high in the more wealthy southern states as compared to its poor counterpart in the north. A study published by Lancet last year, pointed out that out of (half million) five lakh people that reportedly die because of suicide every year all over the world, 20 per cent are Indians.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates the annual global suicide rate is about 16 per 10,000 people, or almost 10 lakh people every year. This includes about 2,00,000 in China, 1,90,000 in India and around 1,40,000 in high-income countries; representing an increase of almost 45 per cent increase in the last 45 years. When compared, USA had around 37,790 cases of suicide reported in 2010 i.e. a rate of 12.2 per 10,000. India, according to the report, had a suicide rate that is near 16.

The suicide rate in the country has only gone up over the years. According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) report, the number of suicides in cities has gone up from 13,071 in 2008 to 18,280 in 2011. It was 13,675 in 2010. The steep increase in 2011 as compared to 2010 is due to the emergence of 18 new mega cities (53 mega cities as per Population Census 2011).

It was 13.3 per lakh in 2007 which decreased to 12.1 in 2008. Thereafter a rising trend was observed - 12.5 in 2009 and 12.7 in 2010, although it decreased to 11.3 in 2011. Just the four metro cities, Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi and Mumbai, together have contributed to almost 36.7 per cent of the total suicides reported from 53 mega cities.

State wise, it’s the South that rules the roost when it comes to suicide related deaths. Together, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka contribute 22 per cent of the country’s population recorded 42 per cent of suicide deaths in men and 40 per cent of suicide deaths in 2010. Maharashtra and West Bengal combined, accounted for 15 per cent of suicide deaths in the same year. Individually, Delhi recorded the lowest number of cases of suicide, Andhra Pradesh recorded 28,000 deaths in individuals of 15 years and above, Tamil Nadu reported 24,000 and Maharashtra recorded 19,000 deaths in 2010.

A total of 1,35,585 suicides were reported in India in 2011, more than the number of lives lost to HIV (1,16,000) in the same year. And, these are just the figures that have been reported as suicide. A large number of suicide deaths go unreported because of the stigma attached to it. There has been a change in the trend in India though. Although suicide rate of among city men were not so high, in the recent years that seems to have changed.

Apparently it is the notion that men are supposed to be strong and should not show emotional distress that held them back from asking for help. But, over the past few years, more men are breaking the trend and asking for help. Many helpline numbers that are dedicated for suicidal people have reported an increase in number of male callers.

With suicide rate increasing in India every year, ways to tackle this problem are being debated. A study conducted by the Royal College of Psychiatrists, states that only 24 per cent of people with mental disorders and 28 per cent with post-traumatic stress disorders get treatment. The report suggested that it is the stigma attached to the word ‘mental’ that stops people from talking about their mental and emotional problems subsequently preventing them from seeking proper medical help. Depression is not something that is noted as a serious problem in India and most of the time it goes unnoticed. 

Even though attempt to commit suicide is a criminal offence in India it hardly seems to be serving as a deterrence for people taking such a step. Awareness about depression; recognizing its signs and symptoms are musts to tackle to bring down suicide rates.

The stigma attached with ‘mental problems’ needs to be eradicated. Recently, an advertisement about depression being a common disease was released in national interest to open minds on it. Many feel pesticides and other poisonous substances shouldn’t be easily available to the public since consuming poison has been reported as the leading cause of deaths in India.

(Readers keen on seeking help on drafting RTI applications may write in to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call Gajanan Khergamker on 022-22841593 for any assistance on RTI or to have their findings / issue featured on this page)

  • Written by Denis Giles
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