Did you know?
- According to the WHO over one million people die due to suicide every year, it is the 13th leading cause of death world over.
- Suicide deaths are most commonly seen amongst teens and adults below the age of 35.
- Males are three to four times more likely to kill themselves than females the world over.
- There are an estimated 10 to 20 million non-fatal attempted suicides every year worldwide.
Suicide – the fatal Indian story
- A Lancet study estimated that over 1.8 lakh people commit suicide in India every year.
- The four southern states — Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala — contribute 42% suicide deaths in men and 40% in women.
- Suicide causes twice as many deaths as HIV/AIDS and about the same number of deaths as maternal mortality
- Almost 50% of suicide deaths are caused by pesticide poisoning, followed by hanging and burning.
- Suicide rates in India are highest for the 15-29 group – 13% for boys and 15% for girls.
- Suicide risk is 43% higher in men who finished secondary education and among women the risk increased to 90%.
Presenting suicide statistics is extremely hard to pin down because they can often be confused with driving accidents, drowning incidents, etc. Such cases are splattered all over urban and rural India. The reasons vary though. While in urban India it’s mostly linked to spurned love, academic results, financial difficulties, substance-related cases and coercion, in rural India it’s mostly due to high debts, or the inability to provide for the family.
Some recent notable cases include
- Geetika Sharma, a Delhi-based airhostess committed suicide on August 5 by hanging herself. She left a note accusing her former boss strongman-politician-businessman Gopal Goyal Kanda of harassment.
- Kanchanbala Jha, a college student in Bihar’s Sitamarhi district took her life on August 23 after she was repeatedly harassed by a local youth, Birendra for over a year. Citing police inaction and unable to bear with the harassment she took her life.
- Vaibhav Kumar, a 14 year Class 9 student committed suicide by jumping off the eight floor of his apartment in Delhi’s Dwarka neighbourhood.
On the other hand in rural India, official stats suggest that 17,000 farmers committed suicide in 2009 while NGOs and other bodies say that it could be as high as a quarter of a million.
So what pushes them to the brink?
People usually commit suicide when they feel they have no way out. Their sense of grief is so strong that they do not realise that there are other options. The pain they experience could be rightfully so, due to a tragic event or some form of a mental ailment. The way they feel often makes them think that they are isolated and, that they cannot share their feelings with anybody, further worsening their situation. In most cases a suicidal person would not have attempted suicide had they not been in great distress and able to choose differently.
In such people, usually a number of stressful and traumatic experiences accumulate over an extended period of time, the coping mechanisms start to fail. These stressors vary from person to person, depending on their tenacity and method of coping. Death of a loved one, loss of a valued relationship, loss of self-esteem or personal expectations, loss of employment, financial losses etc. could be the reasons in some. Even changes in interpersonal relationships, illness experienced by themselves or a family member, their perception of self (including body image) can be stressful for some. Cases of abuse (Physical, emotional/psychological, sexual) have also been implicated as causes in certain suicidal people.
People who are suffering from a mental illness such as schizophrenia or clinical depression do have significantly higher suicide rate than average, although they are still in the minority of attempters. For these people, having their illness correctly diagnosed can mean that an appropriate treatment can begin.
What one needs to realize is that they have a choice to make. As a Chuck Palahniuk quote goes – “Here in the bathroom with me are razor blades. Here is iodine to drink. Here are sleeping pills to swallow. You have a choice. Live or die. Every breath is a choice. Every minute is a choice. To be or not to be? Every time you don’t throw yourself down the stairs, that’s a choice. Every time you don’t crash your car, you reenlist.”