By Rimli Bhattacharya
Erstwhile Indian opener and Tamil Nadu batsman VB Chandrasekhar (57) hanged himself to death at his Mylapore residence in Chennai on 15 August, 2019. Apparently the reason behind the suicide was depression due to financial loss and debt burden.
Prior to this, the suicide of Café Coffee Day owner VG Siddhartha (60) shook us up. He was a victim of stress and depression and committed suicide to end his woes regarding finances.
The above two cases came under spotlight because of their celebrated status. Along with them we also lose many lives to this social catastrophe but those often go unnoticed. In India, more than one lakh lives are lost to suicide every year. Over the last two decades, the suicide rate has increased from 7.9 to 10.3 per 100,000. This essay scrutinizes a few quiescent reasons for the increased number of suicides in India.
- Depression: This is one of the most common reasons for people committing suicide. Depression in its appalling form is consistently chaperoned by a ubiquitous perception of agony and hopelessness. The credence that bolts out from it is pessimistic. The urge to exist becomes unbearable to the severely depressed people. Depression which is a sort of mental affliction distorts the thought process of the victim and allows ideas like everyone would lead a better life without him/her, compelling them in making a logical sense to such irrational thinking. We all know how deadly this thought can be. It is advised to reach out and seek professional and personal help as soon as possible.
- Psychotic reasons: Virulent thoughts/voices often adjures self-harm for some obscure reasons. These are more severe mental afflictions than depression. Consequences of hearing such voices are grave and often lead to suicide. The cases of chronic schizophrenics where a patient hallucinates/hear voices calls for immediate medical intervention. People with bipolar disorder where the patient undergoes periods of high and low mood swings are at a high risk of suicide. Research shows people with borderline personality disorder, eating disorder which includes both anorexia and over-eating can tend to be suicidal.
- Alcohol and substance abuse: With substantial increase in consumption of drugs and alcohol, the victim becomes maudlin and involuntarily tends to end their lives. Once rehabilitated and sobered, the victims feel emphatically repentant. The contrition is often real though they are extremely unpredictable as to the possibility of attempting suicide. In an inebriated or high state they might try to end their life. So one needs to be extremely careful about addictions. Alcohol and drug abuse have escalated at an unnerving rate among the youngsters in India. A weakened support system contributes to one’s initiation into drug and alcohol consumption. There is a high interdependence between increased level of alcohol consumption and suicide rates in India.
- Societal seclusion: With increasing number of nuclear families the age-old traditional joint family system has almost collapsed. This has led to social isolation. People with more friends/relatives and less feeling of loneliness are at a lesser risk of suicide. Isolation leads to despondency and notable anxiety attacks, and the resulting indisposition and melancholia lead to suicide.
- Studies, peer pressure and competition: There is a constant strife in today’s world to prove one’s worth in terms of either education or extracurricular activities. This results in alarming increase in stress, anxiety-related disorders and ultimately suicide. In a survey conducted in 2013, it was found that 2,471 suicides were committed for failing in board exams. It was one of the main causes of suicides among teens below 18 years of age. Another reason is extreme peer pressure to perform well in academics, in order to bag a fat pay and white collar job. This brings an intemperate level of anxiety in a parent, which is then transmitted onto their children who are subjected to undue pressure at home to succeed. When they fail to perform, suicide becomes the easy way out.
- Access to means: Easy access to pesticides, insect killer sprays, sleeping pills and antidepressant medications aids in aggravating suicide risk. Reduction in access to these lethal drugs could reduce suicide rates. The pharma industry should be strict about not selling these and equivalent medicines/pesticides without prescriptions. The pharmacists should sell these drugs in a very limited quantity even with the prescription from a doctor. Doctors should be very careful about the amount of medication prescribed and in ensuring regular follow-ups.
- Deprivation/feeling of being deprived: A person may decide to end his/her life due to reasons which include unemployment or staying unemployed for long, financial crisis, liquidity crunches, end of a relationship, loss of societal acceptance on revealing one’s sexual orientation and by being a victim of bullying or harassment. Please note I have only mentioned few pointers; there may be other factors as well. This feeling of deprivation only adds to his/her agony like fuel being added to fire.
- Post-traumatic stress: Victims of childhood sexual abuse, rape, domestic abuse, war trauma are at a greater risk of suicide even after several years of the ordeal. We call it post traumatic stress disorder and if not treated is infamous for taking lives. With no avenue to channelize the inner feelings and frustrations, the stories of several Kashmiris are a clear example of PTSD (Post traumatic stress disorder).
- Accidental suicides: Death due to asphyxiation during mood swings. The hazardous chocking game where the teens tend to smother themselves is a very common example.
- Cry for help: The person may not want to end his/her life and is genuinely seeking help. They choose suicide to let the society to know that s/he is suffering, often mistakenly underestimating the lethality of the chosen method which can end their life.
In India people commit suicides mainly by consuming poison, pesticide, anti-depressants, sleeping pills, hanging and burning oneself to death. Human mind is a puzzle. While it might seem that an individual have all the luxuries to live by, the case might be actually completely opposite. Understanding human minds needs deep contemplation and sometimes we are left with only questions and no answers as to why someone commits suicide.
In conclusion, I reiterate that suicide is an epistemic disorder and needs to be stopped with the strong intervention of counselors, therapists, and psychiatrists.
Rimli Bhattacharya completed Mechanical Engineering from National Institute of Technology. After obtaining an MBA, she worked in the corporate sector. Rimli is a trained Indian classical dancer, based out of Mumbai, India. She tweets at: @rimli76
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