Suicide has become a matter of grave concern in India recently, but it should have been, long ago. India's suicide rates have been steadily increasing as the data stands and this is alarming for many reasons. On World Suicide Prevention Day 2020, it's also important for India as a country to take stock of this.
Suicide cases are terrible and are a form of loss that one can rarely recover from. Every year of 1,00,000 people is lost to suicide in India. The reasons for it are wide and varied.
World Suicide Prevention Day 2020: India's statistics
Every year 10th September is marked as World Suicide Prevention Day. It has been observed since 2003. This day is hosted by the International Association for Suicide Prevention in collaboration with the WHO and World Federation for Mental Health. It is meant to spread awareness and make concentrated efforts to reduce the number of suicides the world over.
In India, stats from the National Crime Records Bureau show that over 5 years between 2015 and 2019, the suicide rates have been increasing, with the lowest number of total suicide cases in the country reported in 2017- 1,29,887 at a rate of 9.9%. However, more recently, in 2019, 1,39,123 cases were reported with a rate of 10.4%.
As far as states go, Maharashtra leads with a percentage share of 13.6% (18,916 cases) of all suicides in India. Tamil Nadu follows at 9.7% (13,493 cases), West Bengal at 9.1% (12,665 cases), Madhya Pradesh at 9.0% (12,457 cases) and Karnataka 8.1% (11,288 cases). Together, the 5 states account for 49.5% of all the cases in the country.
The causes of suicide found by the National Crime Records Bureau, vary across social backgrounds and personal matters. However, 'Family problems' accounted for 32.4% of all suicides in 2019. This was followed by 'illness' at 17.1%. 'Drug and Alcohol abuse' led to 5.6% of all reported suicides in 2019. Other reasons include 'marriage' (5.5%), 'love affairs' (4.5%), 'Bankruptcy or indebtedness' (4.2%), 'Failure in examinations' (2.0%), and many more.
As far as social categories and groups are concerned, daily wage earners account for 23.4% of all suicides, housewives accounted for 51.5% suicide cases of the total female victims (21,359 out of 41,493) and constitute nearly 15.4% of total victims who committed suicides (21,359 out of 1,39,123) during 2019.
The most vulnerable age groups are-- the 18 to 30 age category and those between 30- 45 years of age. These age groups showed 35.1% and 31.8% suicides respectively. 'Family Problems' (2,468), 'Failure in Examination' (1,577), 'Love Affairs' (1,297) and 'Illness' (923) were the main causes of suicides among children (below 18 years of age).
The report stated, "A total of 10,281 persons involved in farming sector (consisting of 5,957 farmers/cultivators and 4,324 agricultural labourers) have committed suicides during 2019, accounting for 7.4% of total suicides victims (1,39,123) in the country. Out of 5,957 farmer/cultivator suicides, a total of 5,563 were male and 394 were female."
Talking about the means of suicide, the report said, "As mode adopted by suicide victims, the share of 'Fire/Self Immolation' (from 4.4% to 3.8%) and 'By Poison' (from 26.7% to 25.8%) has decreased while shares of 'Hanging' (from 51.5% to 53.6%), 'By Drowning (from 4.9% to 5.2%), and 'By Touching Electric Wire' (from 0.4% to 0.5%) have increased during 2019 over 2018."
These rates and statistics reveal a need to actively minimise risk and focus on mental health in the country to bring down suicide rates. This means proper education on mental health to teach people to cope and reach out. The lockdown has seen a rise in suicide being the lead cause of non-COVID deaths in the country.
The country requires efforts towards building stronger mental health care systems that are affordable and accessible to a broad base and an inventory of mental health resources that can help the population. This would mean building coping mechanisms, discussing mental health and beating the stigma around it.
If you or anyone you know needs help, here are some helplines that one can reach out to:
AASRA (24x7 Helpline): +91-9820466726
Fortis Stress Helpline: +918376804102
Karnataka (Aarogya Sahayavani): 104