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02 Nov 2018

Suicide Trends In India

Globally, death due to suicide occurs every 40 seconds according to the World Health Organisation (Source).

Although there can be many triggers for suicides, mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, stress and so on are major risk factors. According to the data from the National Crime Records Bureau, in 2015, 3.3% of the suicides in India were due to financial distress, bankruptcy and change in economic status (Source).

A public health crisis

A recent Lancet study, states that suicide was the ninth leading cause of death in India, with 2,30,314 deaths in 2016 (Source). Since suicide was a criminal offense in the country until the landmark mental healthcare law (which decriminalised an attempt to suicide) came into force in July 2018, there is a high possibility that many such deaths are under-reported.

Alarmingly, between 1990 and 2016, India has seen a 40.1% increase in the number of deaths due to suicide annually, i.e. 1.64 lakh deaths in 1990 to 2.30 lakh deaths in 2016.

Many researchers have pointed out that suicide in India is a “public health crisis” and immediate attention is required to mental health.

The impact of the death of a family member to suicide, leaves at least six loved ones devasted (Source). These people tend to show signs of depression and often experience suicidal ideation while coping.

Women

Women are more vulnerable to common mental disorders like depression, anxiety and somatic complaints (Source). Almost 2 out of every 5 women who take their lives are Indians, according to the earlier quoted Lancet study. The common factors that may contribute mental health conditions among women are:

  • Large family sizes
  • Early marriages
  • Unwanted/ unexpected pregnancies
  • Unemployment
  • Unrealistic social expectations
Suicidal thoughts

These factors combined with the lack of access to mental health facilities cause distress and affects a women’s mental health severely. This causes mental illnesses like depression and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which lead them into losing their lives to suicide.

In 2016, India has recorded 37% or 94,380 of the 2,57,624 suicides among women across the world. “Suicide deaths ranked first among all causes of death in women aged 15 to 29 years, and in women aged 15 to 39 years,” says the Lancet report. It also highlights that married women account for the highest proportion in this category.

“Marriage is known to be less protective against suicide for women because of arranged and early marriage, young motherhood, low social status, domestic violence, and economic dependence,” says the study.

For more information on women’s mental health, click here.

Youth

More than 50% of the Indian population are below the age of 25 (Source). In a young country like India, according to the Lancet study, the youth are losing their lives to suicide at an alarming rate.

“Suicide ranks first as the cause of death in India in both the age groups of 15-29 years and 15-39 years, as compared with its second and third rank globally in these age groups, respectively,” according to Lancet. Moreover the study adds that in 2016, 1,45,567 youngsters between the age of 15-39 took their lives, accounting for 63% of the total deaths by suicide in that year. The major causes were found to be unreported mental illnesses due to:

  • Issues over troubled families
  • Examination results
  • Relationship problems
  • Severe stress at schools, colleges and work
  • Improper career choices
  • Poor relationships
  • Substance abuse
Suicidal thoughts

With our society growing more individualistic by day, students suffer a lack of support among families and friends for coping with the fear of failures and unrealistic expectations. These issues can cause stress and lead to self-harm among the youth.

Our #YouAreNotAlone program aims to educate adolescents about stress, depression and anxiety, and therefore reduce the stigma around mental illness. Click here to register for a 90-minute session.

Men

23.4% of suicides globally, occur in India (Source). Due to the lack of awareness on mental health issues, many men fear being portrayed as weak and resist reaching out when in distress. Such stress, when unnoticed and untreated leads to self-harm or suicide.

The age-standardised suicide death rate (SDR), which reduced over time from 1990 for women, did not show any significant change for men. The Lancet study states a high suicide death rate of 21.2 per 1,00,000 among men in 2016, which demands immediate attention. In India, men tend to suffer severe distress due to:

  • Severe unemployment
  • Poverty
  • Financial problems
  • Alcoholism
  • Poor health

While farmers’ suicide due to poverty and financial burden are a major cause that lead to an increase in SDR among men, it is vital to increase mental health awareness and provide better access to mental healthcare facilities.

Adequate measures to provide awareness on mental health is necessary. The focus on providing clinical intervention and promoting the idea of seeking professional help is essential to prevent mental health conditions and promote mental wellness.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, we urge you to contact a mental health professional. Call our helpline partners or click here to find a therapist near you.

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